CASE STUDY

Eternal preservation for the Spirit Wrestlers

Preserving the story and beliefs of the Saskatchewan Doukhobors, also known as Spirit Wrestlers, a spiritual community in Canada.

Spirit Wrestlers

The Doukhobors are a religious group which first emerged in Russia in the 17th century, who fled persecution for their pacifist beliefs to settle in Canada over 120 years ago.  The Doukhobors believe that the spirit of creation resides within each person and offers guidance and support to the individual and his or her community. Holding tight to their unique form of spiritual worship and culture, the Doukhobors developed a rich oral history, singing and memorizing hymns and verses. 

CHALLENGE

Although they were some of the first settlers in the Saskatchewan region, there are very few practicing Doukhobors now in Canada. Due to fear of oppression, the Doukhobors didn’t document much of their spiritual tenets and now their heritage and traditions are at risk of being lost completely.

To mitigate this risk, the Western Development Museum, the University of Saskatchewan and Spirit Wrestler Productions, began a collaboration in 2016 to preserve the cultural heritage of the Doukhobor community. This project, the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Living Book, includes a documentary film and an immersive audio/visual installation. In recognition of the importance of this work, the project won a National History Award in Canada.

As the main purpose of the project was to make sure that the Doukhobor’s unique culture, religious beliefs, traditions, and history would be preserved for future generations, simply capturing and collating the information wasn’t sufficient. The project team wanted to ensure that this collection of memories would survive well into the future.

Deposit of Spirit Wrestlers to Arctic World Archive

SOLUTION

The project team, led by Spirit Wrestler Productions, decided to preserve the history and culture of the Doukhobors on Piql’s unique long-term medium and deposit the memories in the Arctic World Archive (AWA).

AWA is a growing digital repository of world memory located at the remote island of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean. Piql’s innovative approach to archiving repurposes photosensitive film to be a digital medium. Data is stored using high density QR codes with all information needed to recover the information also stored on the film, making it self-contained and future-proof.  The archive offers ideal climatic conditions for film storage, enabling the data to last for 1000 years, with no electricity required. The self-contained technology also guarantees that no data is lost and will be accessible no matter the time that passes. If the reading technology is no longer available, the data can be extracted manually with a camera, a light source and a computer.

Offering the optimal long-term digital preservation solution on the market with guaranteed future access appealed to the project team. Following testing of the technology, the team decided to preserve the documentary film “We’ve Concluded Our Assembly, along with Doukhobor songs and recording sessions at the Blaine Lake Doukhobor Prayer Home. These recordings capture both audio and video of the prayer service as it is practiced by Saskatchewan Doukhobors today.

This deposit from the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Living Book Project is the first set of data to be deposited from Canada. These memories were deposited along side data from ancient Hindu heritage sites and manuscripts, emerging art from South-East Asia, Norwegian history, Icelandic heritage, photographs and films among others. They join existing treasures including Edvard Munch’s The Scream, records from the national archives of Brazil and Mexico, Github’s open-source code repository, famous films and other contemporary art.