Norway's National Museum stores a copy of its entire collection in the permafrost in arctic Svalbard

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Norway's National Museum stores a copy of its entire collection in the permafrost in arctic Svalbard
Entrance to the Arctic World Archive's vault in Svalbard. Photo: The National Museum/Vidar Ibenfeldt.

OSLO.- Deep inside a mountain in the arctic Svalbard archipelago, some of the most important items of the world’s memory are preserved in the permafrost. The Arctic World Archive is situated in a former coal mine outside Longyearbyen, in conditions that are optimal for long term data storage.

In order to keep its invaluable artworks safe for the future, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Norway has deposited a copy of its entire collection of 400,000 objects in the Arctic World Archive's vault. The National Museum’s world class collection includes icons such as Edvard Munch’s The Scream, as well as key works of Nordic and international art, architecture and design. Copies of the works are now safely stored on plastic film rolls that have a lifespan of at least 500 years.

The National Museum made the deposit in Svalbard on 21 October, along with organizations like Unicef.

- In the National Museum’s collection we have works from the Antiquity up until today. We are working with the same perspective into the future. The collection not only belongs to us, but also to future generations. Now that we are storing a copy of our entire collection in the Arctic World Archive, we know that the works will be safe for many centuries, says Karin Hindsbo, Director of the National Museum.

The National Museum also made a deposit of high resolution images of three specially selected female artists: Harriet Backer, Britta Marakatt-Labba, and Eline Mugaas. Harriet Backer (1845-1932) was one of the foremost painters in Norway in the Nineteenth Century, and 2020 marks the 175th anniversary of her birth. Britta Marakatt-Labba (1951) is a Samí artist, whose embroidered textiles depicting the cultural and political history of the indigenous peoples in the Nordics has received international interest in recent years. Eline Mugaas (1969) has been a key artist in Norway since the late 1990’s.

The Arctic World Archive is run by the Norwegian company Piql, who has also developed the unique storage method. The storage technology piqlFilm is currently the safest and most durable data carrier in the world. It does not require energy and is designed to guarantee future accessibility, as well as keeping the data safe from cyber attacks.

Other institutions that store its data in the AWA include the Vatican Library, Sweden’s Moderna Museet, and the open source software platform Github.

The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design opens in 2021. With its new building the National Museum will be the largest art museum in the Nordics. The collection contains 400,000 objects ranging from the antiquity to the present day and includes paintings, sculpture, drawings, textiles, furniture and architectural models.

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