Internet Archive Fire

Hold on, let me put on my librarian glasses.


Ok. Whether on not you have noticed, I mentioned and linked different parts of the Internet Archive in past posts, and I keep a few links to it in my sidebar.

Normally, I would just set back and let you find your own way there. But that was before the fire.

Yeah, I said Fire. I don’t often think of internet things as being flammable, but they are, after all, housed in buildings in some form or another.

The good news is, no one was hurt. The bad news is, a building belonging to a not-for-profit that, in my opinion, is a great benefit to humanity, burned down, and some materials went up with it (but thankfully no data). You can read all about it here.

I am going to donate to help them recoup. I feel what they are doing is vitally important to preserving our history and I think they do an amazing job. I will tell you a little about what they do, and let you decide whether to visit their site, or even donate yourself.

I first stumbled across Internet Archive when I was in college. I was concerned about the ephemeral nature of websites. A remarkable amount of human history plays out online, now, and then a url changes, or a server goes down, and poof! A chunk of history is gone. There is little chance that someone has a second copy sitting in a trunk in the attic.

Then I discovered Internet Archive, and learned that they had been archiving websites since the 90’s.

Allow me to put this in context with a personal story.  I first put my writing up for public scrutiny on a site called Elfwood. Then, one day, Elfwood crashed and we lost months of data. We all thought it was gone beyond recall, and one of my friends had also suffered a computer-crash around the same time.

The result was that she lost a piece of writing.

A little while later, when I discovered Internet Archive, I thought “what if…” and I searched their database (amusingly called The Wayback Machine). After searching for a while, the files are hit and miss sometimes, I found my friend’s work and I shared the link with her.

So remember, when you return to that link you’ve saved, and find that it leads nowhere?  All might not be lost. Copy the url and take yourself over to the Wayback Machine.

Internet Archive has started collections of internet ephemera connected to big events as they happen. They also preserve a lot of the random bunny trails of humanity that historians of the future may find far more interesting than we do now.

But that isn’t all! My own library contracts with Internet Archive to preserve our State websites and online documents. It is the most efficient way to preserve and provide access to our state’s online history. Many other institutions contract with them as well.

Internet Archive is also a lot of fun. I suggest going to explore, because you will find things I haven’t, but I go there to watch old movies that are in the public domain, listen to music, enjoy audio-books (Librivox partners with Internet Archive to produce free public domain audio books!), books, podcasts and Old Time radio shows. They even have a software archive!

If you have ever heard of Open Library, that is them, too. In short, they have something for pretty much everyone, and unlike for-profit companies, they believe strongly in the freedom of information.

So wander off to Internet Archive and poke around for a bit. I hope you will be surprised and pleased by what you find.

Librarian out.

About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

6 responses to “Internet Archive Fire

  • Brenton Dickieson

    What a jarring concept: Internet Archive Fire.

  • stephencwinter

    Thanks for talking about this. I first trained and taught as a historian & it has bothered me for a while that so much if what we do know is digital in format. How much we once knew through what people committed to pen and ink & then print & then film and audio. I am glad that someone is paying attention to digital history.

    • jubilare

      My pleasure! The problem of emphemeral data is still a huge one, but Internet Archive has made a big difference already. It gives me hope that we will have some preserved history from this and coming eras.
      Thanks for reading!

  • Bill

    One year we let our farm website go dark, because we had taken a year off from any commercial production and I was trying to save a few dollars on hosting fees. I assumed that we could just turn it back on whenever we wanted, by paying the fee. (Yeah, I realize how stupid that was).

    Of course when we reactivated it all the content was gone. And we hadn’t saved it. Meaning I’d have to write it all again. Not a tragedy, but certainly a significant inconvenience.

    A friend who knew of our problem also knew of the “Wayback Machine”. And there it was–our lost website. We were able to retrieve the stuff we needed for updating and rebuilding the site. So I’m a fan of this service. :)

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