Preserving our audio-visual heritage

Some of our most valuable treasures are held in an audio and visual form. Moments that changed the world. Speeches that changed the course of history. Events that shock us. Stories that inspired us.

Our memories are at the core of who we are and for the World Day for Audio Visual Heritage, we celebrate those that were captured through radio, film, cinema and music.
At Piql, our focus is preserving information that is too important to lose and the genesis of our idea came from the audio-visual industry.

Around 10 years ago we discovered there was a gaping hole in the long-term preservation of digital films. While short term storage offers a plethora of options, there are very few solutions available for long term storage over 10 years.

As a result, many studios were transferring digital films to visual analogue film just to preserve it. Film is known to have 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, we did it. We found a way to record data onto film, using high density QR codes. We also built into the technology a way to ensure the data can be manually extracted without any particular technology (you just need a light, an image capture device and a computer). This means that should the film last for centuries, while all other technology becomes obsolete, this data is not lost. 

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. 

Stored safely in this vault are speeches made by Albert Einstein, recorded by Czech Radio and footage of the falling of the Berlin wall.

Our mission is to fill that archive with treasured memories. We recently invited the public to nominate which items should be preserved and we are now collating the top 10 for sponsored preservation. 

As a society, we are consumed by the instant and the immediate future. But if we don’t prioritise the future, we will miss the opportunity to inform future generations. To pass on the beauty of a master artwork, to share an original master composition or show the moments that defined us. 

This is our task as a generation. Decide what we want to store away for the future. Decide what will last for centuries to come, regardless of conflict, natural disasters or even catastrophic events. 

This task takes prioritisation. It takes resources. But it will be worth it. And our future generations will thank us for it.

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