JISC PoWR

Preservation of Web Resources: a JISC-funded project [Archived Blog]

Collective Memory For Our Web Sites

Posted by Brian Kelly on July 3rd, 2008

I recently posted an article about the history of the University of Bath home page which included a link to a display of versions of the home page, based on data taken from the Internet Archive from 1997-2007.

Andy Powell, a former colleague of mine who used to work at the University of Bath, posted a Twitter message in response to my post in which he said:

@briankelly all pages prior to http://tinyurl.com/47pydq were mine – that’s what web design was like back then! – but all records now lost

03:56 PM June 18, 2008 from twhirl in reply to briankelly

But although formal records of the decisions made related to the home page (its design, the content, the links and the technologies used) may have been lost (or perhaps not even kept) I do wonder whether it may be possible to document such history based on anecdotal evidence from those who were either direectly involved with the decision-making process or perhaps who observed the results of the decisions.

From the museum’s sector and the experiences of The National Archive (with the public Wiki service) we know that the general public does seem willing to provide anecdotal information on resources such as old photographs.

This approach seems to reflect some of the discussions held at the first JISC PoWR workshop. As described in Ed Pinsent’s summary of the eventthere was a lot of ‘folk memory’ and anecdotal evidence, also sometimes called ‘tacit knowledge’“.

Would it be possible, I wonder, to provide access to images of an institution’s old Web pages and, though use of social networking technologies, encourage members of the institution (and perhaps the wider community) to document their recollections of the Web site?

One Response to “Collective Memory For Our Web Sites”

  1. Kevin Ashley Says:

    It’s certainly feasible to do that, and this general idea – encouraging a wider public to enrich descriptions that have been created in a more traditional curatorial environment – has already been shown to work well in museum collections and archive collections.


    Revisiting Archive Collections
    is one methodology for achieving this, although it looks at a very different model of using facilitated group discussion to achieve the same ends. There’s a lot of interest in adapting this for the web but I’m not aware of anyone who has succeeded in getting funding for this yet.

    It would be great to see UKWAC experiment with a facility like this for its collections, for instance.