In a deep cavern carved inside a frozen mountain on an island high up in the Arctic lies the most biodiverse room in the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds over one million samples of seeds from all around the world. The Vault serves as a ‘back-up’ in case disaster (e.g. fire, flood, civil war) strikes the genebanks holding the original collections. However, the Seed Vault contains no information about the cultural significance of seeds; no stories about how they are cultivated, by whom, for what purposes, using what rituals, etc. The seeds are frozen in isolation from all the social practices, ecological relations, and cultural histories that give them life. 

The Seed Cultures Initiative seeks to create an archive of visual artworks to help conserve the cultural heritage of seeds. Its aim is to celebrate the way seeds live within vast webs of interrelations and to honor the fertile bonds between biological and cultural diversity in agri-food systems.

The Seed Cultures Archive website brings together images and projects from artists working across genres and disciplines, who place seeds in their focus. This is to showcase exceptional work exploring the life of seeds through art and culture, and to provide a platform for connection and network building. The website includes images and project statements from a range of international artists engaged with the culture and aesthetics of seeds.

The Svalbard Seed Cultures Ark contains a selection of these artworks whose physical form has been deposited/buried/planted in the mountain alongside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Svalbard Ark currently includes images from the 2018 Exhibition Forgotten Stories of Frozen Seeds and 2019 Agri-Cultures/Seed.Links Exhibition.

2018 Svalbard Ark Artists:

Mary Robinson, Sara Schneckloth, Mollie Goldstrom, David Voros, and Flor Rivera representing artworks submitted by a global range of small-holder farming communities.

2019 Svalbard Ark Artists:

Ivan Juarez, Seeds InService (Maggie Puckett and Melissa Potter), The Migrant Ecologies Project, Paul Chartrand, Centre for Genomic Gastronomy, Anna Laurent, Sébastien Robert, Maria Rebecca Ballestra, and Sergey Jivetin.

The Seed Cultures Initiative was started by Dr. Fern Wickson as a passion project, with initial funding from the Research Council of Norway through the biodiverSEEDy and Agri/Cultures projects. The Archive Collection was curated by Sara Schneckloth and Fern Wickson