Web archives have now been around long enough that the web content they've preserved may never have been previously experienced by full-grown adults today; to this cohort, some websites were only ever "historical." Web archives represent an increasingly vital and singular body of cultural heritage and a tool for understanding both the past and social phenomena. They're also a handy tool for understanding the evolution of the IIPC itself.
While I trust that our own programmatic record-keeping would be sufficient to reconstruct some of the following findings, they would also be thankfully self-evident to a future historian (one unusually interested in the history of the history of the Web) from the web archives themselves. Consulting the UK Web Archive front-end for the IIPC-funded, LANL-developed and -hosted Memento Aggregator shows that Internet Archive has the greatest number of snapshots of the entire history of the IIPC's web presence.
Here's some of what I learned, exploring the timeline:
Our web presentation has evolved with the Web.
- We produced our first video at the 2011 General Assembly and posted it to the website shortly thereafter, hosted locally using an open-source, Flash-based player.
- In September 2012, we launched a redesigned IIPC website that adopted many of the design conventions that were popular at the time, including long scrolling, social media snippet embedding, and an image carousel. In keeping with our joke about our tools lagging behind the changing Web more than we'd like, our entry into blogging also came comparatively late!
- On a related note, our onsite documentation of web archiving tools hasn't been updated since October 2013. Though this is a good demonstration of the efficacy of Heritrix's de-duplication capabilities, we should consider a more sustainable strategy for maintaining the freshness of this content, perhaps offsite?
- By 2012, we had produced a few more use case vignette videos and hosted them on YouTube. Then, as now, our tools for streaming video capture aren't deployed at scale, and reintegrated playback within Wayback is challenging.
- We created an IIPC Twitter account in March 2011; our first tweet came eight months later. While we can be confident that the Library of Congress has this tweet preserved, our collective social media archiving efforts aren't as mature as our web archiving efforts.
- There are still opportunities for us to follow our own community best practices on archivability. For example, the URI of the earliest home page stopped working after the redesigned site was launched, but the fact of captured pages in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine after that point suggests that our web server may have been sending "soft 404s". Personally, I blame the junior IIPC webmaster in charge at the time of the switch-over, one Nicholas Tay...hmm.
- The IIPC has become more international. Over eleven years, the proportion of European membership dropped from two-thirds to a little over one-half, with new members joining from North America, South America, and Asia.
- The IIPC has become more institutionally diverse. Over eleven years, the proportion of national libraries or archives dropped from a little over ninety percent to two-thirds, with the proportion of research libraries rising from zero to twenty percent, and service providers and regional libraries joining as well. This shift is also reflected in the change from the initial, explicit focus on national libraries in the IIPC goals to the Feburary 2007 rewording emphasizing all types of cultural heritage institutions.
- The IIPC represents a decreasing proportion of web archiving institutions. When the IIPC was founded in 2004 it had twelve members which, if Wikipedia's list of web archiving initiatives is to be believed, represented a majority of institutions involved in web archiving at that time. Thanks to the efforts of IIPC members Archive-It (Internet Archive), California Digital Library, and the Internet Memory Foundation, there are now many hundreds of institutions engaged in web archiving, few of whom belong to the IIPC.
I imagine that these latter three points especially will be interesting to consider in the context of our forthcoming discussions for a new membership agreement to replace the one expiring this year (PDF) and to inform refined IIPC mission and goals. Here's hoping that the most exciting history of the history of the Web is still ahead of us!