600 years of architectural history of the Bern Minster preserved for eternity

Bern Minster is the landmark of the city of Bern and can be regarded as the most prominent building in Bern's old town, which is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction and restoration work on this valuable building has been going on uninterruptedly for 600 years.

Over the years, a large number of planning and execution documents have been produced, which are of great importance for understanding the construction measures and the historical development of this unique cultural asset. In addition to the various plans, photographic documentation of actual conditions and for before/after comparisons has always been produced. In addition to the plans and photographs, basic texts and various literature about Bern Minster were also stored in PDF/A form.

Together with the Bern Minster Foundation and the architects responsible, archivsuisse AG has drawn up an archiving concept, the aim of which is to compile this valuable data available in digital form and to secure and keep it available for posterity in the long term. For this purpose, we use the storage medium piqlFilm, on which data can be stored with lasting integrity and unchanged, independently and without recurring media migrations.

For the project, both digital-born data and retro-digitised documents with plans, photographs and texts were processed, analysed and converted into a format suitable for archiving. In total, around 4,000 digital objects were transferred to film. In addition, plan documents were also stored on film in visual form as human-readable images. A third copy is stored for eternity on Spitsbergen in the Arctic World Archive.


This historically important digital data is and will continue to be used in the future to continue the ongoing structural conservation measures at the Bern Minster and to ensure further complete documentation. For this reason, it was also a core objective to store the CAD files, which are necessary for the use of the plan documents in daily practice, on film in such a way that they remain usable in their form. It is also necessary to retain the existing filing structure so that the context of the data is not lost.


The plan documents were stored on film both as archivable PDF/A files and as data in dxf format that could be read and used by CAD tools. For the additional security aspect, these plans were also stored on film in visual human-readable form. To preserve the structure of the content, archival identifiers were assigned and the existing structure was recorded as a classification system and integrated by means of machine- and human-readable metadata of the piql films. This metadata can be accessed via a platform, which guarantees the searchability and findability of the data.


By storing this data on film, it can be ensured that even several decades from now, the significant and culturally and historically valuable planning documents relating to Bern Minster can be stored digitally for the long term without dependence on proprietary service providers and without a constant electronic connection. The risk of data loss is thus virtually eliminated and there is no loss of information due to the secure storage of the bitstream. Nevertheless, the data remains usable and available for the architects' daily use.

Quote from Anette Loeffel, Dipl. Architect ETH-SIA and Minster Master Builder

"The construction documents on Bern Minster, which are irreplaceable for us, are secured for the future by the innovative storage method and also remain practically usable."