About this series
Over the next few weeks I will post a series of brief step-by-step "how-to" tutorials on making use of digital resources from the David Rumsey Map Center and Collection, that I presented in my "Hacking Rumsey" talk, presented at the opening events for The David Rumsey Map Center, at Stanford University Library.
We're starting small, with the easiest tools (like the David Rumsey Map Collection MapTab Chrome Browser Plug-in, which I covered in a previous post) that appeal to the most people, first. Eventually we will work our way up through more complex use of the collections and tools available from The Stanford University Library.
In keeping with shallow tradition, it's taken me a few weeks to collect my thoughts on the recently-concluded IIPC General Assembly and Web Archiving Conference, hosted this year by the National and University Library of Iceland. In the wake of last year's meeting, I speculated on what developments in web archiving we might together effect in the year ahead (now behind). Nearly a year later, that conceit provides a convenient jumping-off point for reflecting on how it all went, where we might go from here, and the tremendous amount of work to do in our one remaining collective month before the anniversary of that post. :)
Dovetailing our recent announcement of documentation of resources for research using web archives, we will be visited next month by an individual who has done much to advance web archives as materials of scholarly interest and exploration. Niels Brügger is Professor of Internet Studies and Digital Humanities at Aarhus University in Denmark, where he also heads the Centre for Internet Studies and NetLab. On Thursday, April 7th he will present, Digital Humanities, Web History, Web Archives, and Web Research Infrastructure &emdash; between close and distant reading, followed by discussion. Additional event details may be found on the Stanford Event Calendar page. We hope you'll join us!
Since our collaboration with political science researchers using web archives to understand the 2014 U.S. congressional elections, we've seen (and, hopefully, helped foster) growing interest in web archives as primary source material. This trend parallels a similar refocusing by other web archiving programs toward enhancing access services and facilitating research use. The maturity and the variety of these efforts, as well as the accumulating body of resulting research, provide an expanding list of references with which to orient and entice prospective researchers to the potential of working with web archives.
A welcome complement to the lately growing number of web archiving-specific events, the inaugural Web Archives: Capture, Curate, Analyze conference (tweet stream) brought together an eclectic crowd of researchers, instructors, students, archivists, librarians, developers, and others interested in web archiving. A novel mixture of institutions was also represented - some active principally through IIPC, many more associated with the SAA Web Archiving Roundtable and/or Archive-It Partner communities, and still others who I'd not yet encountered in these more established, practitioner-centric fora.
Echoing the sentiments of other participants, I was impressed and inspired both by the diversity of perspectives and the excitement for moving web archiving forward. As befitting such a group, the schedule and hallway conversations crossed a wide array of topics. Running through it all, though, questions of ethics seemed to be a persistent subject. I'll highlight three areas of ethical concern that stood out for me.
The world's first websites were built for very different rendering and navigation interfaces than the comparatively advanced browsers available today. Thanks to the work of web archivists (e.g., CERN, SLAC), we can celebrate the incongruity of accessing some of these ancient websites using modern browsers. While a traditional goal of web archiving has been to preserve the "canonical" user experience of a website, this has been persistently impaired by (among other challenges) accessing web archives using software other than would've been available at the time content was archived.
It’s been more than a year since we announced the completion of the first phase of development of Spotlight, an innovative solution that enables libraries and other cultural heritage institutions to build high-quality online exhibits from content in their digital collections. Spotlight was built to make it easier for library curators, as well as faculty or students to create customized, feature-rich and searchable websites from the vast digital collections held by the Stanford University Libraries. The initial phase of development culminated in the first production exhibit built with Spotlight, Maps of Africa: An Online Exhibit. This online collection site was built primarily by SUL's Digital and Rare Maps Librarian, G. Salim Mohammed, with only minimal help from lbrary technical staff.