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Preserving cultural heritage with web archiving


corporate_cultural_heritageIt may be tempting to think of an organization or company’s website as a means to an end; a tool for disseminating information or a portal for offering services to visitors. It is those things, but a well-developed website also is a snapshot of its institution’s identity.

If those snapshots are not being saved, the organization’s cultural legacy is effectively being discarded. That may not seem like a matter of concern today, but future generations are going to wish that more had been done to preserve those websites from long ago.

Web archiving services can stop this loss of important cultural history and assets.

Most companies take steps to preserve records and archive copies of discontinued promotional materials, catalogs, branding and even discontinued products themselves. Those archives are an important resource for future designers, marketers and product teams, particularly as a brand matures into an icon. Consider the ways in which brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford, IBM and Nestle have been able to successfully leverage their historical assets to promote their products and services to today’s markets.

The contents and designs of a company’s websites are not only part of that company’s legacy, they also are a form of cultural heritage that is perhaps at greater risk of disappearing than almost anything else a company owns.

The challenge is the digital medium. It is true that creating backup duplicates of digital data is easier and cheaper than it is for other types of cultural heritage, but the dynamic nature of digital documents poses different challenges to archivists and preservationists than those of more tangible cultural assets. Link rot can degrade websites over time as pages are moved or removed and links are broken.

Web archiving protects against link rot and other threats to website preservation by capturing not only a site’s entire content, but all the organizational relationships between the content. Web archives are not merely backup copies. Backups preserve files and directories. Web archiving preserves context. With relatively little technology overhead, web archiving services can preserve a holistic snapshot of an entire organization’s web content, ensuring that a functional copy of the full site will be captured and kept accessible for generations to come.

Web archiving can save cultural heritage before it disappears.

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