Last month marked 30 years since the invention of the World Wide Web. Fortunately, the National Library of Wales and its partners have been archiving Welsh websites and preserving this history for generations to come. As a result, at the end of last year, the new UK Web Archive website was officially launched. This new site is a response to changes made to Legal Deposit legislation following the passing of the Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-print Works) Regulations in 2013 meaning Legal Deposit now encompasses electronic and online material such as websites, blogs, e-magazines and materials on CD-rom.
The purpose of the UK Web Archive is to collect, preserve and give permanent access to key UK websites for future generations. The 2013 Regulations presented the Legal Deposit Libraries with a huge challenge as one of the requirements is to archive the whole UK Web Space. As with previous UK Legal Deposit Acts, primarily dealing with print material, legal deposit of online material only extend to items published in the UK.
Furthermore, due to the 2013 Regulations, the scope of our collecting substantially increased. For instance, the UK Web Archive collects many millions of websites and billions of individual “assets” (html pages, images, pdf’s, video’s etc.). Since 2017, the UK Web Archive has collected approximately 500TB of data. At least once a year, the British Library performs an automated “crawl” under the terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 to capture as many UK websites as we can identify. This will result in further substantial increases in the huge amount of data that we now collect.
The National Library of Wales and our Legal Deposit Libraries partners, led by the British Library, had been archiving websites from 2003 to 2013, but this was a permission-based model. In order for us to archive a website we needed prior permission from the site owner. Because of the new Regulations, we no longer need permission to archive a site if it is published in the UK.
As for access, the site is viewable from here. However, under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 access to much of the archived content is restricted to a UK Legal Deposit library reading room. Therefore, you will see a ‘viewable only on Library premises’ alongside many descriptions to archived websites directing you to one of the UK Legal Deposit Libraries for access.
The UK Web Archive aim is to provide ‘open access’ to as many of these sites as possible therefore we are still contacting owners of websites requesting permission for us to open up access to archived versions of their websites. For instance, we already have an arrangement for a number of years with the Welsh Government allowing us to provide open access to their growing list of websites.
Of course, the UK Web Archive will continue to expand and develop over the coming months and years. The UK Web Archive is one of many initiatives undertaken to successfully respond to the new Regulations and the challenge that the Digital black hole presented to us as Libraries. Now the site is live, we hope to increase interaction with our users. For instance, a feature of the site is Special Collections and if you would like to see content included in one of our special collections or provide general feedback on the UK Web Archive then please get in touch. We will be very happy to hear from you.
This post is also available in: Welsh