Preserving The Past Can Help The Future
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 21 May 2008
Many of the posts featured in this blog describe innovative tools and applications which aim to provide a more effective work or study environment for users. However there can be a danger that an emphasis on new and innovative services can mean a failure to manage legacy services which can result in a loss of our experiences, history and culture.
This can be particularly true in the Web environment. I first became aware of the scale of the problem when I monitored the Web sites which had been set up for projects funded by the EU’s Telematics For Libraries programme. As I described in an article on WebWatching Telematics For Libraries Project Web Sites published in the Exploit Interactive e-journal in October 2000 of the 65 projects which had Web sites, a total of 23 of the Web sites has disappeared when I carried out the survey. And a recent check shows that at least 39 of the Web sites have gone. Our digital history, the associated learning and the investment (from EU taxpayers) is being lost!
Or is it? Is this assertion just being alarmist? Might not the information have been migrated to a more manageable environment? And perhaps some of the projects are now available, possibly under new names, as sustainable services?
There’s a clear need for these issues to be addressed and for advice to be provided – both to organisation as responsible for managing their own Web services and to funding bodies which commission development work which will involve the development of Web sites.
JISC have recognised the need to provide such advice. They issued a recent call for an ITT on “The Preservation of Web Resources Workshops and Handbook” and I’m pleased to report that a joint bid by UKOLN and ULCC was successful. The project, which had its launch meeting on 1 May 2008, will run three workshops which will aim to gain a better understanding of the challenges to be faced in Web site preservation, identify examples of best practices and provide a set of recommendations to policy makers, content providers and developers. This will be documented in a handbook which should be available after September 2008.
Although the project is only funded for 5 months it will seek to provide advice not only on conventional institutional Web sites, but also on use of third party Web 2.0 services – the potential benefits of such services are well-understood, but there needs to be a better understanding of the risks associated with their use and how institutions should assess such risks and use such assessments to inform policy.
The project team members themselves are using a variety of Web 2.0 tools to support their work. As well as communications technologies (beyond email) to support the work of the distributed team members a blog is also being used to disseminate information about the project and to solicit feedback and encourage discussion and debate. The JISC-PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) blog (illustrated) is hosted on the JISC Involve blog service.
The team would like to welcome those with an interest in Web site preservation to join the blog and contribute to the discussions.