History of the First UK Institutional Web Service

It was 15 years ago, the first week back at work after the Christmas break (I think) when I was part of the team which set up the Web service at the University of Leeds. This was, I believe, the UK’s first institutional Web service, with contributions made shortly afterwards from several academic departments, including not only the usual suspects (the Computing Service, Computer Science, Chemistry and Physics) but also the School of Music.

Various people at the University of Leeds were active in Web development activities back then. My role was in promoting its use (and I’ve discovered a copy of a special issue of the University Computing Service newsletter on the theme on online information services – in particular the Web – which is available on the Internet Archive). But in addition the Chemistry Department were, in conjunction with Imperial College, developing services which provided access to molecules on the Web; a colleague in the Computing Service provided access to the University Libraruy catalogue and Nikos Drakos, a researcher in the Computer Based Learning Unit, wrote the Latex2HTML conversion software (which was first announced in May 1993).

Fifteen years later my memories of our early involvement with the Web are beginning to fade. But as I knew this would happen I write a history of the various activities of colleagues at the University, which was published on the University”s Web site. Sadly, but perhaps inevitably, over time this resource was deleted, no doubt following a reorganisation of the Web site.

But this does not necessarily mean that the information is no longer available. As well as being an early adopter of the Web, the Computing Service had also had long standing involvement in digital preservation. And so the file should still be available on the University’s archive service. But although the bits and bytes may still be available, what are the processes needed for this resource to be retrieved?  Is this a service which the University offers? And is it a service which can be provided to a former member of staff, who left the University over 13 years ago?

As JISC PoWR project team members have commented previously, digital preservation isn’t just about the technical aspects of preservating bits in a format suitable for processing in the future – it’s also about the policies and the procedures.  And I think it’s time I send an email to my former colleagues to see ifthis resource can be retrieved.  I’ll provide details of my experiences in a future post.

1 thought on “History of the First UK Institutional Web Service

  1. Terry Wassall

    Ah yes. I remember it well. I think the site I set up for the Department of Sociology at Leeds was the first social science/humanities dept. at Leeds Uni at that time. I’d love to see the original files but apparently they are not archived anywhere. I have no idea if we were the first sociology dept in the UK but we won’t have been far off it. I remember the original Mosaic followed by Netscape Navigator and then the excitment of in-line graphics and then tables for layout. It was all so simple then!

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