Web Continuity Project at The National Archives

Ed and I were pleased to come across an interesting document, recently received from The National Archives, describing their Web Continuity Project. This is the latest of the many digital preservation initiatives undertaken by TNA/PRO, that began with EROS and NDAD in the mid 1990s, leading to the UK Government Web Archive and other recent digital preservation initiatives (many in conjunction with BL and the JISC).

The Web Continuity Project arises from a request by Jack Straw, as leader of the House of Commons in 2007, that government departments ensure continued access to online documents. Further research revealed that:

  • Government departments are increasingly citing URLs in answer to Parliamentary Questions
  • 60% of links in Hansard to UK government websites for the period 1997 to 2006 are now broken
  • Departments vary considerably: for one, every link works; for another every link is broken. (TNA’s own website is not immune!)

Among the objectives if the Web Continuity Project are to ensure that:

  • All links work in perpetuity
  • No cited information is lost through deletion
  • Information is preserved long-term, even if the Web is no longer the dominant publishing medium it is today

Its outputs will include:

  • Guidance on creation and use of XML Sitemaps
  • A website component (for MS IIS and Apache) that will redirect users to the Web archive if a link is no longer active but is in the archive
  • Guidance to government webmasters on best practice for website design and maintenance for archiving purposes

We can see that the approach and aims of the Web Continuity Project are particularly pertinent to our deliberations. Its aims are to address both “persistence” and “preservation” in a way that is seamless and robust: in many ways, “continuity” seems a very apposite concept with which to address the particular nature of web resources (though I doubt we’d want to swap our nice acronym, PoWR, for CoWR!).

Many of the issues facing departmental web and information managers are likely to have analogues in HE and FE institutions, so the opportunity to share in research and expertise emanating from the National Archives and the British Library, among others, is an exciting one. We will be following the WCP closely over the coming months.

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About Richard M. Davis

I work on Preservation Projects and Services in ULCC's Digital Archives Department, where my responsibilities include managing and developing our e-Repositories service. I've also worked as project manager, researcher and developer on several web-based preservation and archives projects, including the National Digital Archive of Datasets (NDAD), Significant Properties of E-learning Objects (SPeLOs), Social Networking Extensions for Eprints (SNEEP), and JISC-PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources). I also edit our excellent departmental blog. I have worked with database systems since 1986 and Web systems since 1996, when I developed a pilot intranet for the Forensic Science Laboratory in London, before joining ULCC in 1997. Since 2006, I have been studying part-time, on-line, for Edinburgh University's MSc in E-learning.