How we are stopping global memory loss

The world is at risk of losing its memory. We want to make sure it doesn’t.

The growth of online data is exploding faster than we can create systems to manage it. Not only is there pressure (through regulations and business need) to keep data for long periods of time, there is also a strong need to digitally preserve our cultural and heritage items for the future. 

Most cultural and memory institutions have an archival strategy in place to ensure that items are not lost through degradation, disaster or damage. However, in the absence of storage mediums designed for long-term preservation, the data is most often only secured for a few years at a time. 

This means that data must be migrated when the old medium or software becomes obsolete. In only 20 years, we see examples of institutions migrating data 5-6 times. Not only is this incredibly expensive, it’s also incredibly risky. One study estimates that 80% of migrations fail in some way.

With the vast majority of our global memory stored on technology that will grow obsolete in the near future—or is not digitized at all—we are at great risk of global memory loss. 

We decided the world need new a way to keep it’s memory. Which meant three things: we needed to change how we think about preservation, we needed a new technology and we needed somewhere incredibly safe. 

A few years back Vint Cerf of Google proposed a solution to this challenge: take an X-ray snapshot of the content and the application and the operating system together, with a description of the macine that it runs on, and preserve that for long periods of time. Creating a digital snapshot—a time capsule—to recreate the past in the future. 

With the experience we gained from the film industry we set out to try to solve this challenge. We knew that film had incredible longevity and we wanted to explore if it could become a digital medium, offering the same longevity to data.

After years of intensive research and development, supprted by the EU, we did it. We found a way to record data onto film, using high density QR codes. We made sure our technology was future-proof, migration-free, unalterable, permenant and secure. It is also independent, of us and any proprietary technology:

1. The reading technology is completely open-source

2. We even include the descriptions on the film on how to build a reader in the future, should we assume that all of this is gone. 

3. And in the simplest way, all you need to get the information back is a magnifying glass, an image capturing device and any form of computing power.

All the information on how to retrieve the information is written in human readable language on the film.   

New thinking, new technology all we needed then was the place. 

Some years back the Norwegian government introduced the Global Seed vault at Svalbard in a mission to provide a global repository for securing access to seeds from all around the world. 
This gave us an idea. 

Svalbard is an incredibly safe place—some would argue the safest. It is a demilitarized zone and protected with a treaty after the WWI, preventing any country for having military activity up there. Its remoteness and permafrost climate are perfect for the long-term storage of piqlFilm. 

This unique quality fed directly into the idea behind the Arctic World Archive. A safe place where data can rest for centuries to come so our future generations can treasure what we treasured.  

Set deep in an arctic mountain on the Svalbard archipelago, this repository of world memory can last for thousands of years. The cool and dry conditions are perfect for storing film and no electricity is required to maintain the archive.  

The archive currently holds digitized ancient manuscripts from the Vatican Library, The Scream by Edvard Munch, recordings of Albert Einstein to name a few and we are adding more memories all time. 

Our technology and our archive are helping the world remember. 
Because we don’t ever want the world to forget. 

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