Preserving the websites of short-term projects

If you can decode the acronymns (UKWAC, HLF, ULCC, PANDAS, ZeBRAS….OK, I made the last one up) there’s an interesting article on the blog of the University of London Computer Centre’s Digital Archives staff about what happens – or doesn’t happen – to the websites of projects that have short-term funding once that finishes. The article was sparked by the temporary disappearance and (happily) reappearance of the Bernie Grant Trust archives site. (Although the article was written last December it has for some reason just been posted on the BASA mailing list).

Projects, can, it seems, submit an online submission form to the UK web archive but ‘this merely delivers a message to the UKWAC webmaster, who then forwards the request to the most appropriate partner’. And it is by no means clear who this might be, if anyone. Sites easily fall through the net.

As En Pinsent, the author of the article notes this is a serious problem:

It seems likely there are many such project sites, all with short-term funding and therefore potentially at risk of being removed from cyberspace at any time, yet containing unique digital materials of huge potential cultural value. […] How can we persuade the relevant funding bodies to ensure their web outputs are archived […]?

In the comments Joanne Anthony (who worked on the Bernie Grant archive) goes on to quote our own illustrious Andrew Flinn and concludes:

Too often the voices of those on the margins have been written out of history altogether, and it’s therefore our duty to responsibly leave behind a more truthful picture of the past for future generations i.e. endeavouring to ensure that all formats and all histories are preserved.

Since community archives are particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of project funding and often choose to develop online resources (both in the absence of physical locales and in order to connect with a dispersed audience) this issue is particularly pertinent to them. The article was written in December 2007: what progress (if any) has there been since then?

And just for fun, here’s their picture of the ICA congress in Malaysia (where Andrew’s just been)…

It’s not all electronic records management, y’know.


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