Cornering posterity: support for the Internet Archive, a way in to a breathtaking amount of information

Honest History has always been taken with the suggestion that postings to the Internet are the 21st century version of what used to be said of journalism – ‘the first draft of history’. But who makes sure all the good stuff gets put somewhere? Not to mention the vast quantities of government and corporate online resources that can be erased without notice. Who makes sure that future historians – or indeed any interested person or organisation – can find it?

Even if the material was not originally produced for the Internet (like a web page or a Tweet) but is in the form of books or newspapers on newsprint or music or television programs, it can be saved on the Internet. But who collects it?

The Internet Archive is a vast non-profit undertaking to retain copies of as much as possible of what has ever been accessible through the Internet. Sites and resources you thought had disappeared may often be found there; for example, older versions of the Honest History website are being retained and can be accessed. If you haven’t found the site yet, we recommend it and bring it to your attention.

The Internet Archive is entirely non-profit and funded by donations. Its founding father, Brewster Kahle of California, has sent a message to administrators of archived websites reminding us of the scope and importance of the work, and its need for donations. Some information is in this pdf  and you can find more in this TED talk or on the project’s web site, Archive.org.

Brewster Kahle sums up his pitch thus:

We’re working 24/7 to back up the Web. To digitize books and music and television before they’re lost. So if climate change data or entire newspapers disappear, we can tell you with confidence: We Got This.

Did you know, this year we’ve: saved 200 terabytes of government data that are now dark? fixed more than 3 million broken links in Wikipedia using the Wayback Machine? archived 757 million tweets?

Archive.org is up there with Wikipedia in this field and Kahle has been a major force in the development of the Internet since the project began in 1996. The volumes being stored are huge and the front page of Archive.org indicates the breathtaking scope of the information available on the site.

30 November 2017

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