Services & Policies - Fall 2013
Thanks to support from The University of Scranton’s Academic Affairs and Planning and Information Resources divisions, the Weinberg Memorial Library has partnered with Archive-It (a subscription service offered by the nonprofit Internet Archive) to capture and preserve University-related websites for the enduring future.
Part of the Weinberg Memorial Library’s mission is to “preserve and promote the history of the University,” and our University Archives has long collected and preserved photographs, documents, and other records from the past. Increasingly, though, our students, faculty, and staff communicate using dynamic digital media instead of paper or film. For example, the University’s undergraduate catalog is no longer a print publication but a relational database, and since 2001 we’ve received weekly campus news digitally via Royal News, with the printed Record newsletter being phased out in 2009.
Keeping this information is a necessary part of preserving the historical record of the University, but unfortunately this kind of web-based content is surprisingly vulnerable to digital degradation and loss over the long term. It is also somewhat difficult to save: we could preserve a paper version of that dynamic information (say, by printing out Royal News each week) or take a PDF or image screenshot of it, but in doing so we would lose its interactivity and searchability. Ideally, we want future researchers to be able to access archived web content the same way we access it now — that is, by browsing and searching. That’s where web archiving comes in. Archive-It’s web archiving tools allow us to crawl and capture web pages in ways that preserve their dynamic and functional aspects – including active links and embedded media such as images, videos, animations, and PDF documents.
We are certainly not the first ones to recognize the importance of web archiving in higher education. More than 100 other colleges and universities have already signed on with Archive-It, including fellow Jesuit universities Georgetown, Creighton, and Marquette, and our Pennsylvania neighbors Penn State, Drexel, and Bucknell. Several universities have created web archives that extend beyond their own institutional pages in order to document important topics or events, like the American University in Cairo’s January 25th Revolution project or Virginia Tech’s captures of news stories and social media posts following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.
Here at the Weinberg Library we are focusing our early web archiving efforts on our own University web content. We are currently running quarterly crawls of the main University website (scranton.edu) and other major University-related sites, like Scranton Athletics (athletics.scranton.edu). Every Tuesday afternoon we run a smaller crawl to capture the fresh stories posted to Royal News (scranton.edu/royalnews).
Already, we have preserved content that would otherwise have been lost. In June 2013, we ran a final crawl of the faculty and organization pages on the University’s academic server (once available at academic.scranton.edu), which has now been decommissioned. We also captured the University’s website just before its new responsive design launched in summer 2013, preserving the early 2010 look and feel of scranton.edu. All of this retired content is now available in our Archive-It collections at archive-it.org/home/universityofscranton.
This year, we will take on the challenge of harvesting and preserving rich and dynamic media content from University-related social media sites, like the University’s YouTube channel and the many Facebook pages and Twitter feeds published by clubs and organizations on campus. We also hope to work with faculty to identify and explore the possibility of collecting external websites relevant to current and future scholarship at the University of Scranton.
As our web archiving efforts progress, we would love to hear thoughts from our students, faculty, staff, and alumni regarding what is most important to preserve for the future. We invite members of the University community to send us suggestions, questions, or concerns at email@example.com.
Library Partners with Archive-It to Preserve University Web Pages