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Archive-It Basics: Deciding How to Provide Access to Archived Material


As your organization’s web archiving program gets underway, it is a good time to consider how much of the material you preserve with Archive-It will be made available to those inside and outside your organization. Will the entire archive be accessible to the public? How do you want to provide that access?

From museums to universities to government institutions, most Archive-It partners choose to make at least some of their archived content available to the public. If your organization wants to keep any portion of your archives restricted, however, Archive-It is flexible enough to offer various levels of access. Archived content can be made entirely inaccessible from the web, or can be restricted on the basis of the date or on the location of the visitor. There may be a reason, for example, to restrict access to a particular collection to a set of public terminals in a particular building.

Most of the partners using the service that want to make their archives publicly accessible do so through the Archive-It website, where visitors can browse all the public material archived through Archive-It. Content is grouped by the organization that owns the archive, by specific collection, or by the name or URL of the website that was archived. Visitors also may search this material for specific terms or phrases that occur within a particular date range.

If your organization does decide to make the contents of your web archive publicly available, the next steps will include deciding whether and how that access will be offered to the public.

Some institutions present their archive to the public with their own dedicated portals. A good example of this is Virginia Memory, the official web archive site of the University of Virginia. A prominent search dialogue box for visitors who are looking for a specific resource complements a curated selection of archival collections. Those collections include the website marking the 400th anniversary of the 1607 founding of Jamestown, various election campaign websites, and the websites of previous state governors and their administrations.

Other excellent examples of public archive portals, all powered behind the scenes by Archive-It, include the North Carolina State Government Web Archives & Access Program, the web archive of the library for the National Institute of Health, and the AuthorHomepages project at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

Portals and landing pages are not the only ways to approach the question of access to archived online material. One Archive-It partner, the Montana State Library, takes the innovative approach of including a “page history” link in the footer of every page on their site. Selecting this link takes the visitor to the Wayback Machine results for the page in question, incorporating both the material collected by Archive-It and that previously collected by the Internet Archive.

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