June 8, 2011
The future of books = shipping containers
by Melville House
Internet Archive is perhaps best known for its Wayback Machine, “an historical archive of preserved web pages” dating back to 1996 that contains 150,000,000,000 archive webpages.
Now the Archive has announced that it “is building a physical archive for the long term preservation of one copy of every book, record, and movie we are able to attract or acquire….The goal is to preserve one copy of every published work.” The archive imagines this repository of physical books as being similar to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. “A seed bank might be conceptually closest to what we have in mind: storing important objects in safe ways to be used for redundancy, authority, and in case of catastrophe.” Since day-to-day access will not be a priority (the Archive assumes that digital means will allow access to books under normal circumstances) the books will utilize “the most used storage design of the 20th century, the shipping container….In this configuration, a single shipping container can hold around 40,000 books, about the same as a standard branch library, and a small building can hold millions of books.”
The mission statement for the project reads: “Most societies agree that it is important to preserve artifacts of their culture and heritage. Without such artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures.”