PROJECT CASE STUDY
Destroyed historic buildings preserved for future generations
As the name suggests, the Monuments Office of the Slovak Republic (PUSR), with its archives, acts as the protector of the monument fund in Slovakia. Fortunately, years ago, his representatives became fully aware of the importance of digitising the archival documents under their administration.
The archive has been systematically dedicated to digitisation since 2006. They started as one of the first memory institutions in Slovakia with scanning the oldest image documents (photographs, slides, glass negatives, plans, and graphics) stored in JPG and TIFF formats. Gradually, they added the oldest file agenda from the activities of monument authorities in Slovakia from 1919–1950 in PDF format. However, like many other memory institutions, over time they have tried to resolve the dilemma of how to keep digitised data on the most durable medium possible without the need for constant migration. Therefore, they decided to archive the most important documents for future generations on the unique piqlFilm.
The collaboration with Piql
Martina Orosová, Head of the PUSR Archive: “I discovered Piql and their long-term digital and analogue storage technology at a conference focused on digitisation in memory institutions. At first, I did not fully understand this method. It was, therefore, essential to have a personal meeting with Mr. Hodinka, CEO of Piql Slovakia, who explained to us in detail the basis of the technology and demonstrated the whole process. When he offered us the opportunity to try backing up our data on piqlFilm, the decision was simple and we immediately agreed. All that remained was to convince the management of PUSR. After signing the collaboration, we started selecting data for backup. The cooperation took place in a friendly and open atmosphere through personal meetings and electronic communication. Our task was to select suitable content for piqlFilm, upload it to an external disk and provide it to Piql for further processing. Of course, prior written consent for the use of data from PUSR was needed. After a few days, we received a message that our data was uploaded to piqlFilm, which we saw when checking the film strips directly on a reading device at Piql office. The last nice point of cooperation was the handing over of films to us. What I like most about piqlFilm technology, in layman’s terms, is that it is a tangible medium that can be physically grasped by the hand and seen with the eyes. Technologies that work with portable data carriers are very vulnerable, unreliable, require constant conversion to more modern media and readable formats, which is not even possible without changing the reading device at the same time. Cloud storage, on the other hand, is a virtual and sensible alternative, absolutely dependent on current information technologies, without which the use of data is unthinkable.
What type of content did was saved to piqlFilm?
Martina Orosová: “For piqlFilm, we have selected the parts of the funds and collections that we consider to be the most important. They document the protection of monuments in the whole territory of Slovakia in the 20th century, they record in a unique way the form and condition of monuments in the past decades. Some records are all the rarer because they capture historic buildings that no longer exist. The advantage of our archive is that most of the archive funds and collections are made available in electronically processed inventories, which form part of the archive information system. Therefore, we were able to add an archive database with detailed data on scanned documents to the digital objects themselves. This makes the information comprehensive for the future user. In addition to the digitisation of 2D objects, such as archival documents, the Monument Office of the Slovak Republic, as the solver of the national project Digital Monuments Fund, also deals with the digitisation of 3D objects, i.e. real estate and other monuments (churches, castles, manors, townhouses, folk architecture, etc.). The Department of Digitisation and Graphic Documentation selected samples for the digitisation of rare sacral objects and their art equipment, as well as a memorial to fallen Soviet soldiers in World War II, for storing on piqlFilm. The outputs of 3D digitisation are various computer-intensive formats (point cloud, orthophoto maps, 3D panoramas, videos, polygonal models, drawings).”
What type of content did was saved to piqlFilm? How have you dealt with long-term data retention so far and what do you think should be retained on piqlFilm for future generations?
Martina Orosová: “The issue of how to store digital data long-term is even more demanding than digitisation itself. The massive amount of digital data and metadata is a problem to process and store so that they could be accessible to users in the future. The situation is also complicated by unclear requirements for the actual digitisation and creation of metadata. In Slovakia, there is basically no overarching professional body that would guide and coordinate individual memory institutions and which would ensure the operation of the data storage in all respects. Therefore, we solve the backup and storage of digital data created in the Monument Office of the Slovak Republic by burning it to portable media like external disks, magnetic tapes on a local server, and finally by storing it on a local cloud. Besides, the outputs of the Digital Monuments Fund are stored in the Central Data Repository at the University Library in Bratislava. However, none of these options is a guarantee of a truly permanent, or long-term secure storage of digital objects, and in particular, their practical use not only now but also in the distant future. Even today, cultural heritage is constantly threatened not only by war conflicts, natural disasters, vandalism, and terrorism but also by the lack of interest, inattention, and neglect of protection by the heads of state administration and self-government, as well as the memory institutions themselves. Despite the amount of effort, energy, and funding devoted to the digitisation of the Slovak cultural heritage in the Europeana project, the output in the form of the Slovakiana portal is not satisfactory. Of particular concern is the information on the problems with the long-term preservation of the digitised cultural heritage created during the OPIS II project. Therefore, the issue of long-term storage of digital objects created so far should be addressed comprehensively and professionally as soon as possible.”