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Thursday, 25 February 2010 12:05

British politeness could cause loss of history

Written by Nick Farell


Image

Government needs a right to archive


A group
of leading libraries has warned that the UK's online heritage could be lost forever if the government does not grant a "right to archive".

The British Library, along with other institutions, has been archiving UK websites since 2004 but has only been able to cover 6,000 of an estimated 8m. This is because the law requires that they ask permission from from website owners before archiving them. The group, which has just made its UK Web Archive available to the public, warned of "a digital black hole" developing because website owners often are difficult to contact.

The British Library said that it was  archiving for the nation rather than commercial gain and its Web Archive could prove as useful to historians as ancient pamphlets and other ephemeral material in its archive. The most ephemeral material from the past contains the most social detail - such as graphic design, and literacy. Websites are the successor to that  British Library spokesperson said.

She added that the UK Web Archive project was necessary to help "avoid the creation of a 'digital black hole' in the nation's memory". The average life expectancy of a website is  44 to 75 days, and suggested that at least 10% of all UK websites were either lost or replaced by new material every six months.

Nick Farell

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