In the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in one of the most boreal points in the world, an underground vault was built in a deactivated coal mine to store numerous open-source ‘software’ for future generations.
The World Arctic Archive was created similarly to the World Seed Bank, also located in Svalbard. Known as the end-of-the-world chamber, the huge underground warehouse stores thousands of seeds from around the world so that it is possible to revive nature in the event of a catastrophe of global proportions. Its newly concluded technological analogue, on the other hand, will allow us to restore the computer knowledge for our generation.
The project is an initiative of GitHub, considered the largest open-source host in the world. In early July, the company completed the submission of all of its active public code repositories to the World Arctic Archive.
“Our mission is to preserve open source software for future generations by storing your code in an archive built to last a thousand years.” explains Julia Metcalf, director of strategic programs at GitHub.
The more than 21 terabytes of data have been recorded on 186 reels of a digital archive film specially designed for the project. The piqlFilm film was developed to last 500 years, but simulations suggest that it can last twice as long.
The film, made up of silver halides on polyester, resembles tiny versions of QR codes, but each of its frames compresses about 8.8 million microscopic pixels. Each reel is over a kilometre long.
“It can withstand extreme electromagnetic exposure and has undergone extensive accessibility and longevity tests,” says Piql, the product’s creator company.
The films are stored in steel containers in a sealed chamber 250 meters deep in the World Arctic Archive. The vault also houses the so-called Tech Tree, a human-readable reel that explains the technical history and cultural context of the archive’s contents.