I met with some Alexandra Eveleigh and Sarah Shooter from the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) this morning to talk about web archiving and in particular, ArchivePress. Though ArchivePress was initially conceived as a tool to support archiving of academic blog content, we’ve long thought that it could be used more widely. This meeting confirmed that and gave us the chance to explore some of the archival implications of using ArchivePress to collect and archive blog content.
We discussed a number of scenarios where ArchivePress could be used – not just by archival institutions (as per scenario 2 in my post below) but also by local groups who want to develop an archival collection along a particular theme and include in that collection blogged content. This is an interesting example and one which I hadn’t really thought of before – ArchivePress as a mechanism to support ‘community archiving’, of a sort. It was encouraging to get feedback from an archival perspective about our underlying premise too – that blog archiving can have a different set of requirements to other types of websites, and that blogs are one content type where the core content (ie blog posts) are easily and discernibly more important than the presentation. Sarah was quick to point out that she rarely consumes blog content via websites, receiving it straight to her iPhone instead. She rarely sees what the blog website actually looks like, let alone uses any of the content from the sidebar widgets.
Does extracting just the posts have any impact on the integrity, reliability, and authenticity of the resource? Traditional archival practices would mostly have it that an object has to be preserved in its entirity, including the preservation of context. It could be argued that by removing and preserving only blog posts rather than the whole website, a lot of important context is being lost. But then again, archival appraisal – as Alex pointed out – tends to focus on the content. Archivists have been transferring that content around and altering the objects for decades, for example by microfilming colour resources in black and white, and that has still been accceptable. So, it would seem that as long as the ArchivePress process and the original context of blog posts is sufficiently documented, our proposal should still result in resources of sufficiently high quality, integrity, and reliability to be afforded archival status.
We’ll be posting more on documenting context in due course.