This initial phase seeks to establish how blockchain technologies can improve archives and reposition them as social, democratic entities, rather than hierarchical, institutionally controlled and therefore centralized traditional models.

Bringing together a mix of experts and anchoring the project in the Bosnian National Archive as an initial case study and prototype, this week long think tank will explore ways that block chain strategies can protect and democratize archives for future generations to use in ways more fitting to technologies that are emerging.

Here Sarajevo and Salzburg are linked as catalysts for this project (explained in the background section), but this partnership goes much further than this. We will specifically orientate the think tank towards a response to the recent accidental firebombing of the Bosnian National Archive, developing strategies to protect future archives from such harm. We will look at how digitization, storage and crowd sourcing data can democratize archive content first, followed by a more thorough development of a strategy that uses decentralized network storage (block chain) to stabilize and protect both the building of and maintenance and distribution of this archive.

At the end of this initiative, we aim to produce a working model through which we will apply for further funding in order to continue the project through to the development of a prototype and then functioning application in the future.

This section will introduce the Salzburg/Sarajevo Busek Award Research project, initiated and won by Julian Stadon and Martin Tiefengrabner. Through a rather long gestation period, we have shifted our original project concept from a singular interactive installation, to an application for public/crowdsourcing personal archives, to it’s current form. Having been awarded the Busek prize at the end of 2014, we are now finally planning to implement the first stages of this project, which will consist of a week long think tank in Sarajevo, which will be attended by a diverse group of local and international parties. I will talk more about the structure and planning for this week, that will occur from July 1st until Juy 9th this year, but first I would like to give some general context to the project, and explain how we reached this current state and why.

At this point I will just mention that 2 of the original project members, Thomas Grundnigg and Michael Manfe quit the project soon after being awarded the funding, due to their other commitments. We have since sought a team of individuals and organisations that have existing knowledge areas that can benefit this project and are at this point aiming to secure more of a local involvement. This will be done in collaboration with Senko Begic.

For several years now, blockchains (distributed databases) have been discussed as a revolutionary technology in regards to decentralization. With its beginnings in economics, this method of shared or distributed recording/storage has expanded into many other systems.

The idea of decentralization as a disruptive/democratizing method is not at all new however. Within politics, social sciences, national interests etc. decentralization is a regular occurrence, however within archiving, usually completely dependent on a single locational approach, ran by a singular organisation, it is entirely new territory.

While decentralization thus far has been discussed in a rather positive light, it’s disruptive/dislocated nature can also be problematic, in regards to situations such as migration/refugees/war, political unrest, secular issues and so forth. The problem with these forms of decentralization is that they always have a figure head, or power hierarchy and thus are constructed accordingly, as is in fact, the case with archives.

The problem with physical archiving being situated in a single location is that is has the potential to be completely destroyed. Historically we have witnessed numerous occasions where invading forces have destroyed the archives of the people they have invaded. Then there are other factors, such as natural and social phenomena. Two such examples of this are the Ars Electronica archive, which was nearly entirely damaged during the Austrian floods of 2013 and the Bosnian city archive, which was accidentally firebombed during civil unrest in 2014, causing it to lose a significant portion of the archive, which was already suffering still in the wake of the Bosnian wars. During these wars, possibly the largest book burning in modern history occurred.
“The books lost during the siege filled 440 kilometers of shelf space “the largest single incident of deliberate book-burning in modern history. .” (see link below about this)

Also, during the time this research commenced, it was inspired also, by the 25th anniversary of the Bosnian wars, which one could say were long term precipitates from the formation and disintegration of the Yugoslavian state, following the second world war.

Originally the project was to make direct reference to this, however we felt it more important to actually look at backend architectures for digital archiving in order to better protect archives, through digitization and decentralization. There is in fact a project to digitise the archive, that is very strange as all involved parties are associated with NATO, which is pretty much the opposite of what we are trying to do, I think…

This being said, we are currently organising to work with the historians who have been working on digitizing the national archive already, but not directly intervening in their project necessarily. We are looking at their stories, processes and situations as inspiration and ideas catalysts for our own development of a model for sustainable and flexible archiving. And also to see what not to do.. We are also interested in welcoming any other local expert parties locally in Sarajevo that are interested in the project and keen to attend.