The issue of preserving information about nuclear waste for an extremely long period of time raises questions about ways to transmit knowledge to future generations. There is an ongoing discussion about the design of a message and the sustainability of different storage media. Information preservation in the really long term is, however, only partly a matter of technology; it is just as much about thought patterns. Since the work of archivists plays a key role, it is important to find out how archivists think about time and whether they have more developed conceptions of time and the future than other people.

This study examines how archivists think about the role of archives, the implications of long-term information preservation, manageable time distances, and the nature of time. The concepts of deep time, temporal depth, and A-series and B-series of time are tools for formulating questions and framing the answers. Ten interviews were conducted with experienced archivists. Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed using a phenomenographic method.

Results show that archivists share a vision of preserving for eternity. Basically, their attitude is, “We do the best we can today and trust that our future colleagues do the same.” Another finding is that archivists connect much of their thinking on both the past and the future to archival records and other documentation. They also have a long temporal depth backwards in time. Forward in time, however, they do not have longer temporal depth than people in general.