Ceramicist Develops New Way to Preserve History

MARA Blog

Published: February 8, 2017 by Anna Maloney

The salt mines of Halstatt, Austria are home to a new hybrid record with archeological and archival implications. In a recent Atlantic article, ceramicist Martin Kunze, founder of Memory of Mankind, discusses his work creating engraved ceramic tablets that preserve significant cultural information.

Each unique storage media in an archive or records center has its own associated lifespan. Microfilm has an estimated lifespan of 500 years and is widely considered to be the most stable of any storage medium. Acid free paper also has an impressive 300 year lifespan in ideal storage conditions, while standard office paper is typically expected to endure for 20 to 30 years. The media with the shortest lifespans include magnetic tape media (10 to 25 years) and electronic storage media, which should be reviewed every two to three years to ensure integrity and compatibility. But now, in Halstatt, Austria, ceramicist Martin Kunze has introduced a new player to the game: clay squares engraved with images and text, and then fired to form ceramic. Stored in the famous Halstatt salt mines, these tablets are impervious to water, chemicals, radiation, and fire and recall the prehistroic Sumerian cuneiform that date to 3000 B.C.E. A recent article in The Atlantic, “All of Human Knowledge Buried in a Salt Mine,” explores Kunze’s project, which he believes can serve as the physical record for our era should something catastrophic happen to our digital world. Check out the full article to learn more about the project, dubbed Memory of Mankind, including current challenges and future implications.