ARCHIVES 2015 has ended
Tuesday, August 18 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Research Forum Session 7: Digital Dilemmas - Web History and Web Archives

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The Web has come to represent a new space and manner in which to conduct many of our life spheres. Government, corporate, institutional and personal records are created and presented: linked, dynamic, ephemeral, semi-permanent, censored/commercialized/rated via secret search algorithms, public or increasingly locked to members. Indicatively, the Web itself has not yet become a focus of digital history and this might be related to a lack of ‘adequate’ web archives.

Rather implicitly, historians have developed routine procedures to carry out analog research projects AND, in response, cultural institutions have either created or preserved adequate types of primary and secondary resources. Briefly reviewing both, we then follow a hypothetical historian of the future who wants to search currently existing web archives using her beloved procedures and looking for like resources. Of course, her web history also requires new types of questions and thus resources regarding for example functionality (browsers and algorithms), record types (personal narratives and popular entertainment), or privacy issues (e.g. targeted advertisement).

Our historian samples members of the International Internet Preservation Consortium and the Wayback Machine as representing today’s best available tools, standards and practices of web archiving. Alas, she fails: what she encounters demonstrates how web archives are currently not preserving an adequate cross-section of the Web in its interconnected aspects of collection policy/appraisal and access tools for historical research.

An analogy to a European medieval town might help here. Little will be left of its infrastructure, of changes in all its aspects, functionality, and its close links to the outside via trade, migration, pilgrim and tourism routes, wars, diseases, and crises. Archivists and historians know this: only minute aspects and little of its medieval functionality will be preserved. Perhaps they will also know the same to hold true for the early web.

About the Author:

Susanne Belovari, Archivist for Faculty Papers and Assistant Professor, University Archives, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, previously worked at Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University and as Holocaust restitution historian and archivist for the Jewish Community of Vienna, Austria.

Susanne has served on the board of the International Council on Archives – Section of University and Research Institution Archives and is editor in chief of the section’s Who’s Who in Archives Globally as well as its newsletter. She has presented at regional, national, and international conferences on international archival issues, digital archives issues, the history of archives, food and culinary history before and under National Socialism, and processing ‘archives under siege’ among other topics and has published numerous articles. Her academic background is in international development, Latin American Studies, the history of colonialism and science and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana, and a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. 


Susanne Belovari

Archivist for Faculty Papers, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Susanne Belovari is the Archivist for Faculty Papers, University Archives, UIUC, previously worked at DCA, Tufts University, and as Holocaust restitution historian/archivist in Austria. She is active in ICA-SUV and SAA and presented and published about international and national... Read More →

Tuesday August 18, 2015 3:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 26A Cleveland Convention Center, 300 Lakeside Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44114

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