Researchers and scholars now will be able to delve into archived Web sites captured by the California Digital Library's Web Archiving Service (WAS). This new tool enables faculty, researchers and librarians to capture, curate and preserve Web sites, thus creating permanent archives available to researchers everywhere. The social history of our times is now being preserved in archives as rich and varied as the contentious 2003 California recall election, hundreds of California state Web archives, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp Web archive and the Middle East Political Sites archive. New archives continually are being built and published and will appear along with the current archives, available at webarchives.cdlib.org/.
The Web has revolutionized our access to information. Documents and publications that once were difficult to find now are readily available to anyone at any time. Popular reactions to historical events unfold via blogs and personal Web sites, and we have an unprecedented view into popular culture and the formation of public policy. "This is a tool that can track censorship in China, political regimes in Iran, and social commentary around the world," states Laine Farley, California Digital Library's executive director. "CDL and the UC libraries are leading the way in building collections for the 21st century."
Ready access to these publications cannot be taken for granted. Web pages and documents are as easy to change or remove as they are to publish. When sites are redesigned, when new administrations take office, when policies or organizations change, we witness the wholesale disappearance of information. State and local Web publications particularly are at risk. In many cases, these documents no longer are available in print, and libraries are challenged to continue their historic role as cultural memory institutions in the digital environment.
CDL's Web Archiving Service is the result of a 4.5-year grant awarded by the Library of Congress National Digital Information and Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP). The program's mission is to develop a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available digital content, especially materials that are created only in digital formats, for current and future generations. Working with partners at the University of North Texas, New York University, Stanford University and the campuses of the University of California, the California Digital Library has built a service that is easy to use and allows librarians to begin preserving information that was slipping away. Martha Anderson, director of program management for NDIIPP at the Library of Congress, says, "There is a growing public interest in the archiving of public Web sites for future reference. The technical challenges of constantly changing sites and technologies and the enormity of the universe of potential content require immediate and focused action."
Web Archiving Service curators at the University of California share this concern. "UCLA faculty, library staff and graduate students are becoming increasingly aware of the vast amounts of information ... on the Web that is at risk of disappearing or has already disappeared," says Kris Kasianovitz, government information specialist at the UCLA libraries and the curator of the Los Angeles Local Government Web Archives. "These researchers are looking to the library as the keeper of the cultural record of our times to capture and curate the Web-based material they deem vital for their current and future research."
The California Digital Library provides digital library development and support for the University of California libraries and the communities they serve. The Web archives are available to the general public, and use of the Web Archiving Service is not restricted to the University of California campuses. For further information contact Tracy Seneca, Web Archiving Service manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 987-0551.