Use cases

Our web archiving efforts are motivated by a wide range of local use cases including preserving institutional legacy, facilitating research, stewarding government documents, and safeguarding scholarly outputs.

Our institutional legacy on the Web

The print artifacts that have long both told the story of Stanford University and been collected by University Archives have given way to www.stanford.edu as the most consolidated representation of the University's evolution. Web archiving is a practical way of documenting the affairs of Stanford University schools, departments, governance and administration, student organizations, institutes and centers, and research projects. It can capture information previously published (and preserved) in print format, notably the Stanford Bulletin and Stanford News, as well as new content with no print analogue, like institutional social media channels. Transitory events and initiatives can be recorded with additional external context and individual web properties can be snapshotted before major redesign and deprecation.

Inputs for learning and scholarship

Web content is increasingly important primary material for research and teaching. Web archiving facilitates the contemporaneous snapshotting of the websites of firms that are the subjects of Graduate School of Business case studies, a core part of the curriculum that continues to see use both within and outside Stanford University well beyond the year of their initial publication. Web archiving enables new political and social science scholarship, extends the useful life of web content datasets like WebBase, presents new opportunities to support the nascent field of web science, and provides data corpora for new research tools and approaches like ArcSpread and ArcSys.

Subject area specialists curate topical collections of at-risk web materials of potential scholarly value, so far on African politics, Middle East politics, digital games, and virtual worlds. The longitudinal capture of the hundreds of websites represented in these web archives make these collections unique resources and, in some cases, the most comprehensive persistent manifestations of websites that have since disappeared. The African Politics and Middle East Politics collections document recent political and social change in these two regions, as reflected by governmental and non-governmental organizations, political parties, public media, elections, and dissident voices. The Digital Games collection provides complementary context for the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection and other, prospective software archiving initiatives. The Virtual Worlds and Massively-Multiplayer Online (Games) collection continues the innovative work undertaken as part of the Preserving Virtual Worlds Project.

Complementary materials for special collections

Special Collections curates materials of enduring historical value to support the Stanford University and broader research communities. Web archiving allows us to add complementary and otherwise absent materials to these collections, such as Benoit Mandelbrot's departmental profile in the Benoit Mandelbrot Papers and the STOP AIDS Project website before it was absorbed into the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in the STOP AIDS Project records. Planning for the first of likely increasingly typical "living archive" projects with the William McDonough Living Archive, we recognize that a fundamental component is collecting associated web content (e.g., McDonough Innovation, William McDonough + Partners) and social media (e.g., William McDonough + Partners on Facebook; William McDonough on Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn) on an ongoing basis.

Government information in a post-print era

Electronic government offers new opportunities for the dissemination of government information and new challenges for its preservation. Participation in the LOCKSS-USDOCS program helps Stanford University Libraries and other institutions continue to fulfill their role as Federal Depository Libraries. Web archiving also expands the scope of government information we can practically collect and curate for our communities; our collections feature aggregated responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, Congressional Research Service Reports, "fugitive" electronic documents that bypass the Government Printing Office, and, at the regional level, the web presences of San Francisco Bay Area governments.

Outputs of learning and scholarship

Student and faculty projects alike increasingly result in the creation of websites as ancillary or even core byproducts. Examples include the Mechanical Engineering 310 (ME310) course website; the Learning, Design and Technology Master's Projects; projects associated with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, such as the Digital Forma Urbis Romae; since-concluded projects by Stanford University researchers, such as Digital Michelangelo and Icescape; and more to come. NSF Data Management Plans and the prominence of the Web in sharing research data and associated documentation point to web archiving as an important tool in the growing suite of Data Management Services. Web archiving also provides a mechanism to preserve license-unencumbered web content cited in documents submitted through the Stanford Digital Repository Online Deposit form.

Compliance and records management

The reaccreditation process, legal affairs, or other compliance measures may compel access to versions of information shared publicly on Stanford University websites within specific time frames. Web archiving provides a forensically-sound mechanism for those engaged in records management, compliance, and litigation risk mitigation to preserve web-based policies and documentation as they change over time, in a way that is transparent to the public.