background image
Opportunities Fund, and offering free
global access to multimedia portraits of
almost 1000 plants and animals.
nitial work on project design centred
around the building of taxonomies, and
the idea of creating a species record. At the
time there were no taxonomies for media
describing animal species that were consid-
ered adequate for ARKive's preservation
remit. So ARKive created its own, in con-
sultation with academics concerned with
endangered species, and with a research
team of experts in digital media manage-
ment and preservation at Hewlett-Packard
Laboratories (HP Labs).This allowed the
creation of a flexible taxonomy that would
allow for expansion, while still being man-
ageable enough for use on a day-to-day
basis by a team of media researchers.
filmmaking, there were many years when
his proposal for a central library of wildlife
films, photographs and sound effects
seemed likely to remain on the shelf.
ertainly, there was wide international
support for the project. It was hailed
as brilliant, essential, the Noah's Ark of the
electronic era.Then a government-funded
feasibility study revealed the one snag.
There simply wasn't the computing power
anywhere in the world to copy, hold,
index, layer, sort, retrieve and relay the
amount of information involved. However,
as Sir David Attenborough, a long-time
friend and colleague, explains, Chris
Parsons was nothing if not determined.
"Once he took up a project - a series, a
book, a revolutionary way of popularising
the natural world - I know of no-one
more persistent, ingenious, diplomatic and,
ultimately, more successful." And, as Parsons
had proved many times previously, tech-
nology changes.
o it was that on the 20th of May this
year, almost twenty years since its con-
ception, David Attenborough combined a
memorial tribute to one of natural histo-
ry's "most influential, most imaginative and
most self-effacing champions"
with the launch of his last
gift to it: a digital safe haven
for sounds and images cele-
brating and explaining Earth's
biodiversity - ARKive.
hase one of the 2.5m
ARKive project is a
Website http://www.arkive.
org - funded primarily by
Hewlett-Packard Laboratories
(Europe), the Heritage
Lottery Fund and New
he launch of ARKive in May this
year by Sir David Attenborough was
the realisation of a vision first conceived
nearly twenty years ago before the tech-
nology was available to even attempt mak-
ing the project a reality.
escribed as a 21st century Noah's
Ark, ARKive is leading the virtual
conservation effort. It is harnessing the lat-
est in digital technology to bring together,
for the first time, the world's most impor-
tant nature films, photographs, sound
recordings, and memories, then using them
to build vivid and fact-backed portraits of
Earth's endangered plants and animals.The
project's aim is to provide a permanent safe
haven for the records, and the insights they
offer, and to make the best of the collec-
tion globally accessible, for pleasure, learn-
ing and research, via a free, click-and-view
RKive is an initiative of The
Wildscreen Trust, an educational
charity which organises the biennial
Wildscreen Festival and works to raise
conservation awareness by encouraging
and applauding excellence in wildlife film-
making and related media.
hen natural history film-maker
Christopher Parsons first put for-
ward his vision for an environmental
record archive along with Sir Peter Scott,
he was already used to discovering that
technology was not necessarily up to the
same speed as the thoughts in his head.
From his entry into wildlife television in
1955 to his death, aged seventy, last year, he
was forever thinking up impossible ideas,
then finding the kit and the kindred spirits
to make them work. Despite Christopher's
success at enabling innovation in wildlife
"Over the past few decades a vast
treasury of wildlife images has been
steadily accumulating, yet no one
has known its full extent or its
gaps and no one has had a com-
prehensive way of getting access to
it. ARKive will put that right. It
will become an invaluable tool for
all concerned with the well-being of
the natural world."
Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough at the ARKive launch in May 2003
The Wildscreen T