4th October 2021

The Digital Treasures of the National Library of Hungary are Deposited in the Arctic World Archive in Svalbard

The digital copies of highly valuable documents of the National Széchényi Library of Hungary (NSZL), written with a special technique on film reels, were placed in a safe repository on the island of Spitsbergen. The Arctic World Archive (AWA), cooperation partner of NSZL, uniquely undertakes the off-line preservation of digital data in a storage in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost settlement (with a population greater than 1, 000). The data, written on reels of Piql-format  35 mm film made by Piql, a Norwegian based global technology company, were deposited in a steel vault in the presence of Eszter Sándorfi, ambassador of Hungary to Norway, Dávid Rózsa, director general of the NSZL, and Judit Gerencsér, deputy director general of the NSZL, on 23 September 2021.


The Arctic World Archive, inaugurated on 27 March 2017 in Longyearbyen on the arctic island of Svalbard, not far from the Global Seed Vault, in a coalmine decommissioned in 1996, set up a secure vault to preserve the digital copies of irreplaceable documents and cultural heritage. In the past few years, institutions of twenty-six countries (including the National Archives of Brazil and of Mexico, the National Museum of Norway, the Vatican Apostolic Library, the University of Pisa) and international organizations (the European Space Agency, the UNICEF) deposited their documents here.


Piql transplanted long decades of experience of traditional film material production to the world of digital information and data storage. The first step of the applied technique is the imprint of digital data with laser recording technology on plastic-base film.  After the data is imprinted on film and made durable in a film laboratory, the reels are put in a safety case protecting them from mechanical damage. The impregnable vault in the Arctic permafrost in the converted mine prevents the harmful effects of extreme temperature and of potential natural disasters.


Piql has been among the cooperation partners of the NSZL since 2018, which is the first Hungarian public collection to deposit its documents in the AWA. On the six film reels the precious codices of King Matthias Corvinus, the selected pieces of the map collection of Ferenc Széchényi and Sándor Apponyi (including the so-called Lazarus map, the first printed map of Hungary) as well as graphic posters made in the first third of the twentieth century are preserved. The collections selected for deposition are unique in Hungary and internationally alike, and represent well the diversity the Library’s collections.


The deposition ceremony was opened by Rune Bjerkestrand, managing director of Piql, who welcomed the participants in person and online. Representing Hungary, Eszter Sándorfi, ambassador of Hungary to Norway, and Dávid Rózsa, director general of the NSZL, held inauguration addresses, emphasizing the cultural significance of the deposited documents.