The Long Now – 10,000-Year Library

On my travels through the web I take a lot of side roads and meandering paths, and along one of these I came across The Long Now 10,000-Year Library project. I was instantly intrigued by the thought of a 10,000-year library, what such a thing might looks like, and how people in the future might be able to access the information being put in now.

The first part of the library project is a digital library of Earth’s languages, known as the Rosetta Project. It is the Long Now Foundation’s first foray into long-term archiving, and I thought the technology they were using was really captivating:

“Our first prototype of a very long-term archive is The Rosetta Disk – a three-inch diameter nickel disk with nearly 14,000 pages of information microscopically etched onto its surface. Since each page is an image, rather than a digital encoding of 1’s and 0’s, it can be read by the human eye using 500 power optical magnification. The disk rests in a sphere made of stainless steel and glass which allows the disk exposure to the atmosphere, but protects it from casual impact and abrasion. With minimal care, it could easily last and be legible for thousands of years.” (from the Rosetta Stone About page)

The Rosetta Disk has really captured my imagination–it seems like something out of science fiction. The Archive is online and available for browsing, which is also very exciting! You can see the front and the back, and zoom right in to read the data.

All of this led me to wonder how all of these languages are going to be indexed, or catalogued. The way it is now I don’t really see an easy way to access the parts of the archive that you want. It’s more a browsing tool than a finding tool, I guess. So all of these languages will be recorded, but for whom?

I don’t know if there are any librarians contributing to the project…

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3 thoughts on “The Long Now – 10,000-Year Library

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Elinor. Is the purpose of the Rosetta Disk to just list languages; not that this is a small task, but I was wondering whether it provided some further information about each language. Ideally, of course, the Disk should be available in all the languages listed, which would be a large undertaking. The Disk provides fascinating information about the linguistic richness of our planet.

    1. I wasn’t entirely certain. I believe that they are basically replicating the Rosetta Stone, and that no informaiton about the languages is actually on there, just the same text in as many different languages as they can fit on it. It’s an intersting idea, but I’m not sure if it really fits into the library category.

  2. I find the inclusion of dead languages – that sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? – of great value, as it’s intriguing to trace the various languages that have existed throughout the history of humanity.

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