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Back to School: Students Archiving the Web

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“Do you remember how we did things back when your great great grandma or grandpa [were alive]? We had moved Native Americans from their homelands, so we could have more and more land for ourselves.”

The above reference describes the Whitefish Middle School’s Montana Indian Tribes, Modern Life, 2010-2011 Web Archiving Collection. This unique collection, created and managed by middle-school aged teens, is part of the K-12 Web Archiving Program.

K-12 Web Archiving Program
K-12 Web Archiving Program

A partnership between the Library of Congress and Internet Archive, the program gives middle and high school students the opportunity to think about history and culture by selecting “at-risk” born-digital web content to archive for future research use.  Using Internet Archive’s Archive-It service, students select websites and create “time capsules” that represent their activities, hobbies, current interests and life events.

Students also take on the responsibility of managing and describing their collections, which become “primary sources” of information. Through this program, they develop critical thinking skills, consider the authenticity and value of websites, and become familiar with the ephemeral nature of the web.

Cheryl Lederle, an Educational Resource Specialist at the Library of Congress, recently discussed the benefits and use of these archived websites as primary source materials for teachers in a post on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. Since 2008, the program has generated 45 student collections from geographically dispersed schools, representing a breadth of topics such as religion, social networking, education and local communities. The collections provide diverse insight into student views of contemporary culture.

Screenshot from the Whitefish Middle School, Montana Indian Tribes, Modern Life collection. Captured Feb 21, 2011.
Screenshot from the Whitefish Middle School, Montana Indian Tribes, Modern Life collection. Captured Feb 21, 2011.

In addition to students creating the collections, the program works with teachers who run the program in their classrooms. In the spring of 2010, a team from the Library of Congress, including NDIIPP and Teaching with Primary Sources staff, visited one of the participating schools, the James Moran Middle School in Wallingford, Connecticut. Over two days Library staff interviewed the students and their teacher, Paul Bogush, about their views. You can view two videos produced from the visit: K-12 Web Archiving: Preserving the Present and America’s Young Archivists.

Web archiving is a great starting point for students – and the general public – to learn about digital preservation.  If you’re interested in learning more about it, you can find general information and view other web archiving collections on the Library of Congress Web Archiving site.

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