BBC to shoot docusoap in Arctic Svalbard

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK's national broadcaster, have commissioned a docusoap portraying the life in Longyearbyen, the isolated capital of Norway's Arctic Svalbard archipelago.

BBC to shoot docusoap in Arctic Svalbard
Houses on Longyearbyen. Photo: Smudge 9000/Flickr

The broadcaster commissioned the ten-part series, which will portray the life of Longyearbyen inhabitants, from the UK production company Hello Halo. The series will be aired on BBC Earth next year.

“Svalbard’s combination of larger than life characters who have chosen to live almost completely ‘off the grid’ will captivate our international audiences,” Julie Swanston, BBC Worldwide's vice president of commissioning, told World Screen, a US broadcast media news site.  

“We’re very excited to be partnering with Hello Halo to bring the town of Longyearbyen, an isolated outpost in the breathtaking wilderness of Svalbard, to the world.” 

Longyearbyen, with a population of 2,000 people, is the world's most northerly town. Many of the residents work in mining, with the average inhabitant staying 6.3 years before moving elsewhere.

The new series will follow some of Longyearbyen's inhabitants, as they live their everyday lives in extreme Arctic conditions in an archipelago where polar bears outnumber people.

Longyearbyen is not a normal Norwegian town, as there are few inhabitants over retirement age, no welfare payments are made to people in the archipelago, and no nursing homes are available.

More men than women live there, as many chose to work on Svalbard while their families stay on the mainland. 

“With extreme Arctic conditions, three months of total darkness and the ever-present danger of polar bears, Svalbard is not your average neighbourhood. I'm thrilled to be able to bring this strange and quirky world and its even quirkier inhabitants to audiences across the globe,” Wendy Rattray, executive producer at Hello Halo, told World Screen. 


Norway digitally freezes national treasures and stores them in Arctic archive

Norway’s National Museum has preserved some of the country’s most treasured artefacts digitally and stored them in a former mine on Arctic archipelago Svalbard.

Norway digitally freezes national treasures and stores them in Arctic archive
Photo: Bartek Luks on Unsplash

The Arctic World Archive was originally constructed in 2017 to “protect the world’s most important cultural relics”, the National Museum said on its website.

The data preservation facility is located on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago, not far from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The National Museum has now placed its entire collection of around 400,000 items as digital copies on plastic film rolls, which are to be stored at the Longyearbyen site.

“The dry, cold and low-oxygen air gives optimal conditions for storing digital archives and the film rolls will have a lifetime of around 1,000 years in the archive,” the museum writes. Emissions emitted by the archive are low due to its low energy consumption.

Offline storage of the archives also insures them against cyber attacks, the museum said.

In addition to all data from the National Museum collection database, high-resolution digital images of works by selected artists are included in the archive.

Works to be stored include ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch, ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’ by Harald Sohlberg, the Baldishol Tapestry and Queen Maud’s ball dress.

“At the National Museum we have works from antiquity until today. We work with the same perspective on the future. The collection is not only ours, but also belongs to the generations after us,” National Museum director Karin Hindsbo said via the museum’s website.

“By storing a copy of the entire collection in the Arctic World Archive, we are making sure the art will be safe for many centuries,” Hindsbo added.

In addition to the Norwegian artefacts, organisations from 15 other countries are represented in the archive, including national museums in Mexico, Brazil and India; the Vatican library, Sweden’s Moderna Museet and Unicef.

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