Emerging technologies within the crypto, decentralised finance and blockchain space may, on the face of it, sit very uncomfortably with heritage and preservation. However, it is becoming ever clearer that the metaverse, and in particular the NFT (non fungible token) economy, is reliant on archives and heritage to survive and grow. In return, in making legacies public through NFTs, the preservation of tradition and heritage becomes a collectively sustainable operation.
We hear daily of the larger fashion brands making brave forays into the metaverse with Gucci Vault buying up space on The Sandbox, and the announcement of the new Aura Blockchain Consortium by LVMH, Prada and Richemont. But for more historic archives there are some interesting examples of how the metaverse could provide a lifeline to archives in the future.
An example of a brand leading the charge and repositioning their archive and it’s offering in the metaverse is The South China Morning Post. For hundreds of years, newspapers have been responsible for writing the first drafts of history, capturing what happened during some of the most consequential events impacting humankind. But now this Chinese journal wants to use blockchain to preserve and monetise its historical archive. It’s an enormous responsibility, and one that Gary Liu, the CEO of the South China Morning Post, thinks should be decentralised.
“Today, there’s specific guardians who protect, who collate, who curate all of that history,” he said. “But with blockchain, we have an opportunity to allow the entire world to participate in this preservation.” The South China Morning Post recently announced a new NFT initiative called Project Artifact, which will allow people to trade digital assets that encode historical events pulled from the newspaper’s archives spanning more than 115 years. The project will also include the launch of a new marketplace for selling and trading historical NFTs.
The NFTs are designed to look like trading cards, which you can purchase in packs. “You open it and it reveals one entity after another, and you can go really deep into the stories that you are rediscovering for the first time,” Liu explained. “It’s very much in line with our mission to help people better understand the world in really interesting ways.”
Another example is Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, the man who has held the title for more years than anyone else, who has decided to turn his personal legacy digital, and offer extensive chapters of his past into an NFT.
“My NFT venture reflected my lifelong desire to take on new challenges and work with exciting new technologies” says Kasparov. He is shaking up basic concepts of heritage, legacy and history. “Kasparov seeks to create a digital presence for various chapters in his past, thus creating a legacy that does not depend on exhibits, display cabinets or history books” commented Katie Bridgeman from The Brand Archivists. “The objects, pictures and paintings depicting his past which would have historically sat in an archive are now dropped through an NFT to preserve a legacy before it vanishes by educating Gen Z and engaging more people interested in preserving that heritage”.
The Brand Archivists are now working with several existing archives to decentralise the preservation of heritage, calling on collectors to take part not only in various legacies but also in their preservation. As Bridgeman stresses, “At the simplest level, if Kasparov himself disappears from human consciousness, even these heritage objects will lose their value. In turn, the interest of the person taking part in the sale becomes the same as Kasparov himself, preserving the heritage and exposing it to as many people as possible.”