Collecting websites, an occupation of the National Library of Wales for number of years by now, has provided us with an opportunity to explore collections and voices, for one reason or another, may be under-represented by our print collections. BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities across Wales being one such significant voice.
Nowadays, much electronic collecting is done via archiving websites for the UK Web Archive, a consortium of the six UK legal deposit libraries (the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, Cambridge University Library, and Trinity College Dublin Library), which aims to collect all UK websites at least once a year.
This collecting of websites has enabled us to collect a plethora of information on BAME voices, communities, services and organisations across Wales. However, a further examination of the way we collected such websites provides a backdrop to the challenges we faced as National Libraries. Back in early 2000’s, when we began collecting websites, we included them within an online portal to validated websites. Crucially, despite providing access to these websites in the short term, we needed permission to archive websites to keep a permanent copy for future researchers. Websites were created quickly, changed regularly and sometimes disappeared altogether often without notice. This lack of permanence resulted in us losing this vital information. This so called ‘Digital Black Hole’ was to become our biggest challenge.
Looking back to our BAME collections in 2005, the websites often focused on, as today, on removing economic and social barriers to BAME communities across Wales. However, of the twenty or so BAME websites collected, many are no longer live, therefore regrettably lost to our collections. Even though we are aware of what existed c.2005, in most cases, we did not have permission to archive this content. The UK web Archive contains a snapshot of what we collected in the 2000s.
Thankfully, the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 went someway in addressing this issue and we are now entitled to copy UK-published material from the internet for archiving under Legal Deposit which is done through an automated process, known as web harvesting which collects millions of websites each year and billions of individual assets (pages, images, videos, pdfs etc.).
Returning to collecting BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) websites, we are now able to archive all websites that fall under the UK Web domain for researchers of the future. To improve access to BAME websites, the UK Web Archive have grouped them within a ‘Black and Asian Britain’ Collection, an ever-increasing growing collection which has over 750 websites listed, 138 of specific Welsh interest.
The National Library of Wales have collected a diverse collection of websites and a small number of twitter feeds covering BAME Organisations, Societies, Protest groups, Communities, Authors, Artists, Festivals, Music, Dance, Welfare, Education, to your local BAME Sports Clubs which have been archived by the UK Web Archive. This is a substantial increase from the handful of websites collected c.2005 to the hundreds that we collectively collect today along with the other UK Legal Deposit Libraries, but more importantly, have archived therefore available and accessible to researchers of the future.
There are still challenges. Access to websites archived under non-print legal deposit regulations is more restrictive than the internet in general. Even though we have archived the websites, most are only available to view on Library premises. Additionally, we contact website owners and request permission to make our archived copy publicly available through the UK Web Archive. We hope to have as many websites as possible accessible in this way.
It is good to say that this grouping of websites is one of our more valuable collections within the UK Web Archive but the wider aim is to encourage and build on our partnerships and feedback from external bodies and BAME communities to further develop and improve this collection of BAME related websites from across Wales and build on what we have so far collected. You are also most welcome to suggest any UK based website that you feel should be archived for the Black and Asian via the Save a website form to help us develop this collection of websites.
Acquisition Library and Web Archivist