Responses to the Ozymandias Project

In the fall of 1992 I had the idea for the Ozymandias project, and sent it to The Smithsonian Museum, The American Natural History Museum, various magazines, and individuals who I thought might be taken with the notion. Although practically all these people thought the concept interesting, nobody thought it practical to embark on such a project, the political and social climate was just not ready.

I think the true scale of human history and physical existence has now become real enough to many people, that our civilization is ready to take the idea as not only practical, but worth doing. Many people are thinking along these lines, and even starting work on various archival projects. The Ozymandias project is ambitious, but not beyond our reach.

Many of the people, or organizations that I sent the article to, had ideas of their own in response to the Ozymandias project proposal.

I Include some of the most thought provoking here:

From Carl Sagan:



Center for Radiophysics and Space Research


Ithaca, New York 14853-6801

Telephone (607) 255-4971 Fax (607) 255-9888

Laboratory for Planetary Studies

December 23, 1992


Mr. David Green

Dear Mr. Green:

While I believe that we'd be much better advised to spend limited resources on preserving our civilization rather than in deep-freezing its artifacts, I agree that if deep-freezing is inexpensive enough, it's probably a good idea to do it. The place to store such a record, however, is, I think, not underground, but in space, where the environment is much more benign, and the artifact would be much easier to find. Of course, we have been doing this to a limited degree, with the Pioneer X, XI plaques, the Voyager I and II records (available on CD) and the LAGEOS plaques. These are discussed in the book Murmurs of Earth. Great efforts should be made to preserve the products of the widest variety of human cultures. Good luck on your efforts.

With best wishes,



Carl Sagan


from The American Museum of Natural History:

From Michael Novacek

The American Museum Of Natural History

Dear Mr, Green,

Long ago you deserved a response to your visionary proposal on preserving our treasures far into the future. I agree that technology has redefined the possibilities. For me the issue at hand is one of priorities. That is given a limit to persons, time, and money - what should we do first? My bias leans toward capturing the vast collected and uncollected database on biological diversity because possibly 30% of this diversity will be erased in four or five decades. The result is incalculable not only in redefining but in possibly terminating human existence.

Several initiatives are underway for global scale programs of digital inventory of biodiversity collections as well as ongoing and future technologies. I can"t think of a better application for the project like the one you envision.


From The Smithsonian:

23 February 1993

Mr. David Green

Dear Mr. Green:

Since my initial response to your letter about the Ozymandias project, I have received comments from various quarters here at the Smithsonian. There is general-interest from some of our experts in computer technology and preservation but, unfortunately, not a lot of enthusiasm for taking on your vision in this economic climate, even at the level of a "spirited debate" as you put it in your letter to the Secretary.

Specifically, there were serious concerns about the recovery of encoded artifacts, especially since changes occur so rapidly in technology that what is easily readable one year becomes exotic the next, and about the incredible difficulty of arriving at fundamental agreement on standards, practices, and what should be preserved. Some expressed interest in technological capabilities for producing facsimiles as a way of solving significant storage problems in the museum world in general, but that consideration seems to be tangential to your abiding interest in making timeless treasures of civilization, as we know them, available to the human race in the millennia to come.

Evidently Jim Michalko, the President of the Research Libraries Group, Inc., is piloting software under the acronym AMIS that might be relevant to your project. You could contact him to determine whether or not there is any compatibility between your thoughts and the work of RLG.

I'm sorry that our Institutional priorities cannot embrace your hopes and aspirations at this time in our own history, but we do appreciate hearing from you and wish you well in your endeavors.

Sincerely yours,

Tom L. Freudenheim

Assistant Secretary for the Arts and Humanities