Electronic Records Day 2017 on Web Archiving

Electronic Records Day 2017: Web Archiving

Gina Strack Open Government

Electronic Records Day (10/10/2017) is designed to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world.

As of 2014, there are at least 1 billion different websites on the Internet.1 What would happen if all that information were lost? Even without a large disaster, pages and content disappear every day. Servers change, people get new jobs, someone forgets the password to keep a website online. Even before today’s ubiquitous use of online services, commerce, and reference websites, attempting to “save” the Internet was a daunting task.

Web Archiving

One company tried and is still trying. The Internet Archive began as a web crawling company in 1996. The content saved was not available to the public until the introduction of the popular Wayback Machine in 2001.2 In 2006, the Internet Archive began providing their web-crawling services to other partners.3 Partners, often libraries and archives, would benefit by obtaining a copy of websites important to their collections, while adding more sites to explore in the Wayback Machine. This partnership offshoot is called Archive-It.

The government was never far behind when it came to posting information online. An interest group of the web standards organization W3C stated in 2009, “Governments have been striving since the late 1990’s to find better ways to connect with their constituents via the Web. By putting government information online, and making it easily findable, readily available, accessible, understandable, and usable, people can now interact with their government in ways never before imagined.”4. But all of this government information on the web was subject to the same “bit rot” and loss as the rest of the Internet.

Utah’s Early Adopter

In 2007, the Utah State Library decided to become a partner with Archive-It in order to fulfill its mandate to preserve government publications and information in Utah. Librarians realized that many publications released by government agencies were now online. Quite a few were no longer printed. Having a web archive would complement other initiatives like the Pioneer Online Library (now Utah’s Online Library) and later the Utah Government Digital Library. Over ten years, the State Library selected and archived thousands of pages from Utah.gov, local government, and related sites from around the state. All of them are available for free from the Wayback Machine.

This year, after careful consideration and discussion, the State Library transferred its web archive collections to the State Archives. They were, after all,  permanent government records. Part of the mission of the Archives is “to preserve those records of enduring value.” The Archive-It records are a great fit and we are grateful for the work of librarians like Craig Neilson, Ray Mathews, and Darci Card.

The Future

The Archives will continue to capture and archive government websites. We will also provide access to collections from the State Library, align new collections of websites to related initiatives like the Open Records Portal and the Utah Public Notice Website, and explore ways to continue to preserve the web archives in our own digital preservation system.

Visit us on Archive-It


  1. Pappas, Stephanie, “How Big Is the Internet, Really?” Live Science, https://www.livescience.com/54094-how-big-is-the-internet.html (accessed September 25, 2017).
  2. Wikipedia contributors, “Internet Archive,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Internet_Archive&oldid=802183695 (accessed
    September 25, 2017).
  3. Archive-It, “About Us,” Archive-It, https://archive-it.org/learn-more/ (accessed September 25, 2017).
  4. eGovernment Interest Group, “Improving Access to Government through Better Use of the Web,” W3C, https://www.w3.org/TR/egov-improving/ (accessed September 25, 2017).