Library’s EaaSI program preserves digital data in deep freeze, Norway

  • Woman with glasses and blonde hair, wearing jacket and white hard hat holds a foil wrapped flat package with the American flag on top.
    Piql's Katrine Loen Thomsen carries Yale Library's films into the underground vault
  • Blue ground with EaaSI and Yale University Library in white lettering with inset of six people in hard hats and coats gathered around the opening of a silver vault
    Screen shot from the video of the AWA deposit ceremony
September 27, 2022

Yale University Library has made its first donation to the Arctic World Archive (AWA), whose goal is to preserve global memory and cultural heritage for future generations. AWA is an initiative of the Norwegian company Piql, which collects and stores its partners’ contributions in a secure vault repository set deep in a decommissioned coal mine in Svalbard, Norway, just some 600 miles from the North Pole.

The library’s EaaSI (Emulation as a Service Infrastructure) program added to AWA’s vault a representative sample of Windows and Apple computing environments, statistical analysis software, and everyday office software—along with the necessary information to access those systems should future users need to extract the by-then-obsolete data from the vault. The goal of the EaaSI program, led by the Digital Preservations Services team and funded by the Mellon Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is to make the ever-increasing collections of born-digital information accessible to users at Yale and beyond.

EaaSI Program Manager Seth Anderson provided remarks about Yale Library’s contribution during the deposit ceremony, which he attended via Zoom. In Svalbard, Piql’s deputy director, Katrine Loen Thompson, carried the library’s packet—topped with a miniature American flag—into the vault. Both Yale Library and GitHub, an Internet hosting service for software development, represented the United States, one of the eight countries making deposits that day.

AWA deposits are data stored onto a unique storage medium called piqlFilm, which, the company asserts, cannot be “hacked, modified, destroyed by electromagnetic weapons or nuclear radiation” and which has a life span of 1,000+ years or more. The cool, dark, dry conditions of the vault—its remoteness, the Norwegian government’s maintenance, and the status of Svalbard as a demilitarized zone by 42 nations—ensure the data’s longevity and security against cyberterrorism, physical war, climate change, and other threats.

The library’s deposit to the vault sits alongside contributions from 60 other institutions from more than 27 nations: among them, India’s almost one half mile of film documenting the entire structure and grounds of the Taj Mahal, captured with drones, scanners, photometry, and other means; Australia’s Atlas of Living Australia, a record of all the continent’s plants and animals; the National Museum of Norway’s digitized version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream; and the Vatican Library’s scans of precious manuscripts, including Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy

Read more about the library’s EaaSI program and Digital Preservations Services.

—Deborah Cannarella