NDSR Update: Enrichment Session at the AIA

This is a guest post by Valerie Collins.

Photo of a historic building

The Octagon (c 1913-1918). Photo from the AIA.

As part of the National Digital Stewardship Residency DC program, each resident develops and hosts a half-day enrichment session for the cohort and their mentors. The topic is up to the resident, as long as it is on some aspect of digital preservation.

For my enrichment session, held at the American Institute of Architects on February 1st, 2016, I invited Anna Perricci, the Education Coordinator for the Web Archiving Roundtable for the Society of American Archivists and a former Web Archiving Project Librarian with Columbia University Libraries. The topic was Web Archiving.

The internet is a crucial source of our digital history but it’s one that is subject to frequent data loss, link rot and upheaval. Although the efforts of the Internet Archive and various institutions, such as the Library of Congress, are helping to ensure that we will have some record of the web in the future, I wanted to get a look at how other organizations are approaching web archiving.

Perricci offered her insight on the Andrew W. Mellon-funded web archiving projects at Columbia University, as well as on the general challenges of web archiving. One of the interesting things that Columbia University Libraries does to provide access to archived web pages is to make these sites available through its online catalogue. By doing so, access to web archives is integrated through already familiar methods of searching to users.

Along with the group’s discussion on the challenges of web archiving, and how each of our institutions is handling the task, we took a look at Webrecorder.io, a Mellon-funded project from Rhizome to help archive the web. Webrecorder is an intuitive way to collect the dynamic content of websites. Webrecorder is not a large-scale web crawler like Archive-It, but rather a precision method of collecting complex or interactive websites that aren’t suited to being picked up by a standard web crawl. Webrecorder looks like it will be a great way to fill in the gaps that Archive-It sometimes struggles with or to pick up small collections of dynamic content.

The enrichment session continued with a tour of the AIA Archives, where we looked at an exhibit that demonstrated the journey the AIA’s functions have made from physical to digital. Finally, we ended the session with a tour of the adjacent Octagon Museum, a house museum that has housed a President, been a tenement and served as the AIA Headquarters.

The Octagon is a fascinating way to explore Washington, D.C. through the ages, and is also notable as a building museum that allows visitors to touch and use period furniture. It was a great note on which to end the day.

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