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June 23 2021
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Previous story If we could archive all human memory, how would we choose what to forget? Next story
Published on October 28, 2020 10:57 AM


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hen the Voyager missions were sent by Nasa on their grand tour of the solar system in 1977, they went into space with messages and photographs from Earth, in case either probe bumped into another civilisation.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which are now both comfortably more than 10 billion miles away from home and still recording data, went into deep space with an eclectic set of images stored on a golden record, including photos of the Great Barrier Reef and rush hour traffic in Thailand. Those pictures were supplemented by a mixtape of music, welcome messages recorded in 55 languages, including ?greetings to our friends in the stars" in Arabic, and a note composed by then US president Jimmy Carter. One day these windows onto our world may be discovered by another lifeform.

Earlier this month, another time capsule began accepting deposits again after a months-long pause triggered by this year?s pandemic.

magined as a repository for the world?s most important information, the Arctic World Archive on the Svalbard archipelago, which is midway between Norway and the North Pole, is a cold storage vault in which great works are being kept for future generations. The AWA is an off-the-grid, low carbon footprint and disaster-proof space set deep inside a disused coal mine.

Last week, Unicef deposited a copy of a petition of support, containing thousands of signatures for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a duplicate of which is also kept in the facility. Several cultural entities made deposits at the same time, placing archived documents, literary works and art databases into the vault.

The project, which is run as a commercial operation, has been brought into life by Piql, a data preservation and digital film entity. The company says the deposits contribute to a richer picture of our era and serve to protect world memory for centuries to come.

The AWA?s intriguing location and cutting-edge digital film storage techniques could easily have been imagined on the pages of a Hollywood script, but the project?s broader impulse raises real-world questions about what should be preserved and ...