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…