Welcome by John Carrington, Chair of Archives of IT’s Board of Trustees

It’s my pleasure as the chair of Archives of IT’s trustees to welcome you to this first Forum on the Histories of the Internet. This event builds on an extensive oral record of people involved in IT since the 1950s that AIT has established.

My own background is in telecommunications – I was a pioneer in mobile communications as founder of what is now O2 and the proponent of GSM, the standard which first covered Europe and now most of the world, and I was a signatory in the first intergovernmental agreement in 1987. I have to say I was a believer when many people were sceptics and didn’t believe mobile would take off as it has.

The panels will cover a wide spectrum of IT developments. These will be thought-provoking and a notable addition to our online archive that is accessible to all without charge.

On behalf of the trustees, I would like to thank you all, and those who are taking part in panels for being here today and all the work you’ve done in order to make this possible. Especial thanks goes to Bill Dutton, Jim Norton and Tom Abram and their tremendous effort organising the Forum.

Thanks also to the British Society for the History of Science for an enabling grant and the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists who are hosting today’s event. Now over to Mike Short, chair of the first panel.

Mike Short: Thank you and welcome to the first panel: Who Cares about the History and Archives of the Internet and it’s my great pleasure to welcome you all today to this particular panel.

I’ve had experience working in telecommunications for more than 30 years but we’re going to talk particularly about the internet dimension today and begin with three distinguished speakers. If I could ask Niels to come forward first. I’ll ask each of the panellists to introduce themselves and then to present their slides and their thinking on who cares about the history and archives of the internet.


Niels Brügger – Lessons from Editing the Journal entitled Internet Histories

Hello, my name is Niels Brügger and I come from Denmark and I work as a Professor of Media Studies at Aarhus University, in Denmark’s second largest city.

I actually have a background that has nothing to do with the web but in the French language and culture and for various reasons I drifted into media studies and my colleagues in the late ‘90s were studying the internet and I thought, okay, I’ll go for that.

I focus particularly on the history of the internet and the history of the web and I am currently writing the history of the first five years of the Danish internet from 1995-2000.

I am talking to you today in a slightly different capacity as a researcher, as I am the managing editor of a journal called Internet Histories and I can tell you this journal does care about the Histories and Archives of the Internet.

2010 – the idea for an internet journal

It started in 2010 as an idea. I was editing a book about the history of the web called Web History. I had an epilogue at the end and in that I wrote ‘what do we need if we want to push forward the history of the web?’

And one of the underlying things is that we should have some infrastructure to support us, such as conferences and also an international peer review journal. The latter didn’t exist at the time, so I thought well someone should create one at some point. And later in 2013 I started to put my ideas on paper.

Later in 2014 I made the first substantial draft of a proposal for a journal to be sent to a publisher, which was Taylor and Francis.

I then rounded up some people who would like to work with me on the journal and in 2015 I got the proposal back with comments from three reviewers.

In 2015 we were asked to do some amendments and the final proposal was out in 2016 and we signed a contract.

So, it took roughly six years to get this far and actually the first issue came out in 2017. It was actually released here in London at a conference organised by Jane Winters.

It was me, Gerard Gartner, who is, from University in Australia, Varabi Chafee, at the time from Paris now based in Luxembourg and Megan Sapirangerson from the US and we had a book review editor Ian Milligan from Canada.

Basically, it’s about writing any sort of history about the internet with a focus on culture at large, media, humanities, social science and arts.

And importantly, it’s in the plural, so it’s internet histories because the first idea was actually only internet history, but the publisher recommended the plural as there are so many issues out there. And we have and international editorial board which includes Bill Dutton and Jane Winters.

So, for the inaugural issue we was we asked all the members of the editorial board to submit a small piece of 4,000 words about how they see internet histories. What were the possible agendas to take up? It was later published as a book by Routledge. We publish four issues a year.

What kind of audience do we publish and how popular are they?

We do not publish open access unless people pay for it ufortunately. But there are articles where people have paid for getting it bought out for open access and it actually has had an impact as people read it more.

Looking at some of the metrics, we have 58,000 annual downloads, which is quite good for a journal that’s only seven years old.

Acceptance rate for submissions is 77%. We struggled a little bit in the beginning, the first three, four years, to get it below 100.

That’s because there were not that many people submitting articles to the journal, so we had to accept them all.

Of course, they went to a review and all they were good, but still.

So how can you benefit from this journal?

We welcome any submission within the scope of the journal. We also work on proposal for special issues.

You can look at the journals to the web page and find instructions about how you can make a proposal for a special issue.

There is a list of the special issues, the latest of which is called Between Marginal and Mainstream.

Asian Internet Histories is really a really interesting topic, Genealogies of online content identification; The internet and the EU market; Legacy Systems: Internet Histories the abandoned, discontinued and forgotten and Studying the web in web archives, which was following up on a research conference.

This is just to give you an impression on what you can do in terms of special issues. We have some in the pipeline already. We have one coming up about museums on the web, exploring the past and the future.

And the next one we’ve lined up is Gender and its network history, edited by Leopoldina Fortunati, University of Udine, Italy.

And then we have one just about to be published about the history of the internet in the post-Soviet countries. Actually, the editors are from Ukraine and it sort of has a very strong presence right now.

Internet Histories tenth anniversary

We will be celebrating the tenth anniversary in a few years and what we’re going is similar to the inaugural issue. We’re going to ask all the members of the editorial board to write a small piece maybe looking back to what they wrote ten years ago.

We also have an Internet Histories Early Career Researcher Award every second year and that has run twice now.

So, if you know younger scholars, please tell them that this is an opportunity for them. The award for 2024 has already been reviewed and we are now looking to the next two years to 2026.

Our special features for the journal are published in book form and what we also do is conduct interviews, which I very much like. I think this is maybe a good forum to mention that in.

We have done an interview almost in each of the issues with someone who’s been relevant or important in the history of the internet worldwide, it has been really a pleasure to have them in the journal.

All the interviews that we have conducted were published as a book: Oral Histories of the Internet, which came out a couple years ago.

Finally, we have what we call roundup discussions. You know what a round table is. So, we thought, okay, how do you do that in the online world?

Well, we call it a round document. So, we set up a Google doc with some question in it and we invite eight people to join in to, write their comments to each of the questions and it works extremely well. It’s actually as if people are sitting in the same room speaking to each other.

Last thing is that we will start doing what the publisher calls special collections. It’s a way of reusing what we have already created and with taking articles that we have published, and then making a special issue collection from them.

Again, we invite people from the editorial board to setup special collection and that will take place this this year.

I think that was the call for you to submit articles and if you want to submit proposals for special issues, I recommend you do that.


Brian Sudlow – Insights from IT History on the Search for Accessibility and Effectiveness

I’m a lecturer in history at Aston University and like Niel’s, my origins are actually French studies. While I was teaching French studies at Aston, I developed an interest in history of technology. I used to teach a module on technology in France. And in fact, I’ve been using internet histories with my students for a few years now.

I’m tackling the issue in this panel about who cares about Archives of IT? And that’s why I’ve subtitle this talk the search for accessibility and effectiveness.
My key question here at the start is whether Archives of IT can promote prospective history and if so how?

Essentially what prospective history means is using history as a tool for future, tactical and strategic planning.

The key questions here for me are the following. First of all, why is AIT underused.? I’ve certainly had that sense from talking to Director, Tom Abram, and others. If you look at the hits on YouTube for the interviews, they’re not particularly high.

I know that AIT is aspired to develop more links with universities, which, you know, currently, are more embryonic than anything else. So why is that the case? And what does that tell what the challenges are for exploiting AIT better than it’s currently been exploited up to now.

And the second thing that I want to do is offer one possible solution and that’s related to my own current research, which is the use of digital storytelling, as a way of translating the very rich sources that Archives of IT now represent using that digital storytelling to communicate all that material in an agile way.

How can digital storytelling actually ‘Capture the past, inspire the future’?

And then lastly, I’ll come to the last question about how could, how can digital storytelling actually ‘Capture the past, inspire the future’, which is the AIT tagline. So, I think inspiring the future is something that needs to be impacted.

As already indicated, AIT has many, many strengths. It’s a set of data rich sources not only for history of technology in the field of IT and elsewhere, but also for social history as well. You have an example of a young historian looking at AIT as a source of social history. And clearly all the tech developments are embedded in the changes in British society over the past 40 or 50 years as well.

So that’s something of great interest, as are all the insights that we find from these frontline operators and it’s a really wonderful initiative. That the organisation started in order to gather together those memories and recollections of the pioneers in this field in this country.

So why are they underused? And my explanation would simply be that this is about time. All the interviews are an hour long, maybe a little bit longer. And the kind of target audience that AIT wants to speak to is intolerant of that sort of use of its time. Why is that? Firstly, because entrepreneurs, for example, are of course as we know, time poor.

And unless the advantages of spending time on something are immediately available, then that it’s going to go against any kind of resource which requires a lot of time.

For the other target audience, young people, inspiring young people with the prospects that could be there in the field of technology and IT. What we do know about Generation Z, this is the generation born between about the mid-nineties and the end of the first decade of this century is that they too are intolerant of anything that takes a lot of time.

Snackable Content

The preferences that Generation Z has for short format media known in the jargon as snackable content.

So, this is a problem, Is it? This is a problem for AIT who wants people to sit still and listen to something for an hour. And just to do a traditional cost-benefit analysis, clearly these target audiences are missing the benefits and seeing only the cost. That at least is my working assumption.

Let me talk then briefly about what I’m currently doing with a couple of colleagues, Dr Ahmad Beltagui, from Aston University and Dr Miying Yang, from Cranfield University.

We’ve been developing digital stories about cases from the industrial revolutions as a way of trying to represent or translate scholarship about past industrial transitions for today’s manufacturers.

What actually can we learn from history? You know, this is a tricky question really for historians.

But our intention with this project which is called Insights from History has been to try to take this existing scholarship and find a way of boiling it down or boiling down some of the key lessons and then presenting those key lessons in short video formats.

Let me show you one example in which we took an article about small scale technologies in coalmining in the 19th century and we derived from it what we call an actionable insight. Something that manufacturers or tech entrepreneurs today might actually implement in the present day.

Interact Insights from History Mining Lamp Animation

Video text

“Big technological breakthroughs are exciting, but sometimes smaller innovations can be just as important. It might not sound like much but a humble lamp helped make industrial production possible as steam powered factories and cities in nineteenth century Europe.

Coal mining became increasingly important. Innovation focused on ways to extract more coal and bring it to the surface faster. The coal mines remained very dangerous. And the risks to minors were not well understood. A mixture of underground gases and coal dust could make the air unsafe for minors to breathe and lighting a lamp to see in the dark could lead to … you can imagine.

Safety improved dramatically between 1850 and 1900. Inspections and regulations helped with the real impacts from small-scale technological innovations.

To help the people who worked in the coal mines innovative ventilation systems improve the quality and safety of the air.
10:28:51 Allowing minors to work deeper for longer. And British and French inventors. Came up with safety lamps which could separate a flame from the air and explosive gases around it. Thanks to these inventions, miners could breathe and also see more easily as they worked. So while coal may have grabbed the headlines as it powered growing economies, a series of small-scale innovations held the key to making industrial production possible.”

So that video was produced towards the end of 2022 and we’re in the process of commissioning another four videos which will go to production next month.

I’ve yet to trial this kind of translation of scholarship with an audience of historians and I’m teetering on the on the edge of this at the moment because of course what I expect, what we expect, is the accusation of vulgarisation and simplification.

Without getting too far into a theoretical argument against that, what I’m going to say is that what we’re doing here is we are translating scholarship for a new audience.

For a new audience who would never look at the long, wonderfully written but inappropriate articles, if you like, for this new audience. They simply wouldn’t consult that history. So, what we think here is that we have a way of bringing new audiences towards scholarship on IT history. And hopefully you’ll see straight away the connection with AIT.

Our process

What are we what are we doing here? Essentially, once we’ve found that actionable insight, and by the way, the point of the article was about explaining the improvement in safety levels that was the aim of the of the authors but that wasn’t our insight.

When we read the article, we thought, what would a new audience, what would today’s digital manufacturers get out of that? What we thought the actionable insight could be was this question of the use of peripheral small technologies driving bigger infrastructural technologies.

We were then in search of an audience need. This also is a way of justifying the translation of these kind of articles. That for us is the hook. This is what’s going to draw in the new audience. It’s whether this media can speak to the needs that they have. And they don’t have the same needs as an academic, historian audience. They have a completely different set of needs in their own field.

We use the hook. We try to ask a question. We try to bring people in. The second thing we do then is we tell the history or rather than saying the history, we say one of the histories.

So, we tell one dimension or some of the dimensions essentially that we can fit in in order to illustrate our hook and then we draw at the end our insight which I’m calling here hindsight for purpose of alliteration the hook the history the hindsight which is essentially a retrospective insight. It’s what you see when you look back and hindsight is 2020 vision people often say.

There’s our digital story solution for how the data rich sources of Archives of IT could build a path towards a wider reception, towards easier access for the people that AIT wants to attract.

Let me come then finally to this idea of inspiring the future. It’s a great tagline but it’s something that needs to be unpacked and understood and actually problematised.

If we’ve captured the past, okay, but how do we inspire the future? I say we need to think in proactive ways about the creation of snackable content in order to draw people into the much richer content that Archives of IT makes available.

Perspective History

And one source that I’ve come across here which has been very helpful for the team that I’m working with is the idea of perspective history. It’s a concept that’s been developed by Roy Suddaby over the past few years, who works in the field of business history and he’s been using this idea of prospective history in order to show what history could do for business.

And he’s mapped the uses of history in business onto a framework that’s used to describe what are called dynamic capabilities in business. This relates to research done by Teece et al and argues history can be used to help businesspeople sense opportunities, seize those opportunities and see how those opportunities can actually refine their ability to think and plan for the future, to visualise what their own futures should be in the light of that historical inspiration if you like.

However, we argue that in order for the past to become inspiration, it has to be interiorised, it has to be used. Just thinking back to my own linguistic background and language is only acquired when it’s understood and used meaningfully.

So how can these issues be used meaningfully by visitors to Archives of IT and in the next phase of our research we will hold some participatory digital story workshops. We’re not just going to drag people in and get them to watch the videos. What we want to do is bring them in, show them the videos and get them to think proactively about what their own story looks like, going forward in the light of the insights that they’ve seen.

Hypothetically we’re looking at how this could work and we’re proposing various things.

Firstly, that these histories can serve as curatives because we all suffer from biases and we all have to work at refining, purifying our biases and history in fact is one of the ways in which we can step outside, step beyond our own horizons.

In that sense we think that these histories could serve as curatives. Secondly then, histories could serve also as catalysts because essentially what we find in them is a way of enriching the imagination of making users of history more sensitive to the unexpected and the contingent, which is the essence of history in many ways.

And so, we think history could work as a catalyst and therefore with the curatives and the catalysts of history at work hopefully then these future perfect stories will become more envisageable.

So, we’re making more films and we’ve got funding from Interact, the internet network to produce those. We’re also making our own videos. Using the We Video platform and we want to test how effective these stories can be on today’s digital manufacturers and we have tested that hypothesis fully once we’ve had some workshops and we can gather in that that data.

This is where we see very much the potential for collaboration with the AIT team and with the wonderful material they’ve gathered.


Jane Winters – Reflections from Digital Humanities

I’m Professor of Digital Humanities at the School of Advance Studies at the University of London and I’m going to talk briefly on histories and archives of the internet and the perspective of digital humanities.

Digital humanities is notoriously hard to pin down as a field and we spend a lot of time arguing about what it is and isn’t. It is characterised by diversity, so I can’t make any claims to comprehensiveness or even representativeness in what I’m going to say. My own professional training is as a historian, so that shapes my particular focus and interests.

Use, access, value, ephemerality and preservation

Thinking about the question that frames this session, who cares about these archives and histories? I’d like to focus on four main things. Use, access, value and the linked questions of ephemerality and preservation.

Turning to use first, we’re going to hear today and already have this morning about multiple actual and potential uses, the archives of technology, the web and the internet. From the archived web to the collections of cultural heritage institutions like the Science Museum Group to the interviews and oral histories created and archived by AIT.

Some of the most interesting digital research projects combine all of these types of primary source to consider histories of digital communication in the round, drawing on expertise from a wide range of disciplines and sectors.

One striking example is the WEB90 project led by Valérie Schafer, which studied memories and histories of the web in France in the 1990s from the perspectives of history, law, political science, information science and science and technology studies with digital humanities, helping to translate between practitioners and researchers that have different specialisms and ways of working.

Finding interdisciplinary research of this kind can be used to inform policy making, to understand the social and cultural impact of the internet in local and national contexts to gain insight into the barriers to adoption of particular technologies and so on.


But the uses to which these enormously rich archives can be put to depends on who is able to access them and how they can then be analysed, published and reused. The problems of working with 20th century archives of negotiated copyright and data protection legislation are well-known and they are even more present for researchers interested in the most contemporary history.

And that’s why it’s so wonderful that the AIT interviews are open and available for everybody. Just to take one example, the field that I work in the UK Web Archive, is only accessible on site in the reading rooms of the UK’s six legal deposit libraries not online, so they can’t be analysed at scale easily.

The HTML is hidden from the user and it’s not possible to copy and paste text. And I’ll come back to the fact that some people in the room know all too well at the moment, the UK Web Archive is currently not accessible anywhere at all. And access is absolutely key. Speaking about digital archives, it’s relevant for archives and technology more generally. Research at the National Library of Australia notes that without access, preservation is little more than a costly and meaningless storage burden.

Who are these archives being collected, curated and preserved for?

It’s not enough just to capture and keep data. Who are these archives being collected, curated and preserved for and how are they being catalogued indexed and presented?

Within digital humanities we spend a lot of time discussing the difficulties posed for researchers by archives that are wholly or partially locked away and devising strategies and mitigating restrictions of different kinds.

But researchers are not the only audience for histories of the internet and digital technologies. There’s a clear public interest in understanding the context for the software, devices, protocols and infrastructures that shape people’s lives.

And that context is in the archives. Even if the archives of the internet were to be entirely open, they would not immediately become meaningfully accessible to non-specialists.

There’s a need for histories and stories, and there’s huge promise in digital storytelling as a means to communicate some of the complexity of these archives that are available to study.

And I promise that Brian and I did not talk about that beforehand. It’s coincidental that we’re both going to advocate for digital storytelling today.

That brings me to the question, the value of and the values embedded in the archives of the digital histories of the internet and not just those of elites but are ordinary and often overlooked men and women.

This is another area of huge interest in digital humanities with researchers such as Mar Hicks exploring the failure of the British computer industry to capitalise on a highly trained female workforce in the 1960s and ‘70s. And we neglected the contribution of female key punch operators to the development of digital humanities itself.

More diverse stories are beginning to be told, but there is work to be done both to curate more representative archives and to explore them through different lenses for different audiences. When resources are limited, demonstrating value is a really important task.

Creating and maintaining sustainable archives

I’d like to finish by touching on the fundamental challenge of creating and maintaining sustainable archives in which histories of digital technologies can be constructed and shared. Not all of the archives of the web and the internet are of course themselves digital but many of the primary sources for current and future research, do you take digital form and may rely on now obsolete hardware and infrastructure to be accessed.

Christoph Zeller is perhaps overstating things when he comments that destruction is the constant companion of digital collections. But the vulnerability of digital archives and digital information has been brought sharply into focus in the UK by October’s ransomware attack on the British Library.

As of today, the online catalogue is still available, although a huge amount of work, the limited version is due to go online next week.

But the UK Web Archive is currently inaccessible. The specialist work of digital preservation has never been more important or urgent.

It will be essential if the histories of the internet are to be recorded and given due attention in the future.

I don’t know if you’re aware of the global bit list of endangered digital species that’s produced annually by the digital preservation coalition, which has red, amber and green lists. It already identifies pretty well world wide web video text, data services and bulletin board services as quote ‘practically extinct’.

That’s a rather depressing note to end on but a more positive takeaway is that the future of working with the archives of the digital is addressing difficult questions of use, access, value and sustainability is a collaborative and interdisciplinary one, that makes the value of diverse knowledge and expertise of the kind that’s assembled in this room today.

Events like this are hugely important means of bringing key groups and individuals together to help shape that future.


Panel Discussion

Mike Short: Jane, just in terms of how to open up the UK web archive. Do you have any suggestions you’d like to share with the audience?

Jane: I should say that there are people who work on the UK web archive in the room who know much more about this than I do and who have been working very closely with researchers to do exactly that.

There was due to be a review of access arrangements, which has been shoved into the long grass like so many good things these days and I think it’s really a question of moving into consultation, lobbying for access, perhaps initially for researchers, but then more generally for wider access because it’s legal deposit legislation that prohibits really open access to these archives.

So, it’s about demonstrating value, telling the stories of what we can do with this material, what we’re missing out on by not having access to it and working to get legislative change, which is unfortunately the only way of that’s going to happen.

Mike: So, what is the body that is dealing with that called – what is the institution or association that’s taking the lead on it?

Jane: Nicola Bingham will know she’s Lead Curator, Web Archiving at the British Library.

Nicola: It’s the joint committee of legal deposit (JCLD) legislation and is made up of representatives from the UK legal deposit libraries, but it’s also made of publisher groups in the UK or rather the legal advisers of those groups.

What is trying to do is strike a balance between opening up these collections for researchers for members of the public but protecting the commercial interests of the publishers.

Now, publishers in JCLD are very heavily represented by large media publishers and there isn’t a representative of smaller publishers on the web who are charities and thinktanks, and well everybody really, because we can’t really pinpoint one organisation that represents all of these ‘inverted commas’ publishers.

So, there’s a little bit of a tension between the commercial interest of the publishers and the of the libraries.

Mike: Yes, and even if it’s not fully representative, it also needs a government department owning it, so I suspect JCLD would work with DCMS and it would be quite important to understand the policy lead in government and how they’re working with JCLD. But maybe we could take that offline and think whether the AIT has some role in that area.

Are there any questions people would like to pose from the audience?

Jim Norton: Can I just strongly support what Brian Sudlow was saying about storyfication and take it slightly wider?

My colleagues as fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering will know where I’m coming from here. And that is several years ago the Academy tried to access Generation Z to bring more people into engineering.

The programme This is Engineering was on life support for some time until we worked out actually how to do it and that was five-to-seven-minute short videos. It has been enormously successful. Four of five times the anticipated traffic, so if you want to look at how that’s done then it’s on the Academy’s YouTube channel.

Audience member: Could tell me whether the web archive and the internet archive in America are complementary or are they doing something different?

Jane: They are complementary and there’s partial unknown overlap, I would say. It’s very unclear what’s in the internet archive. It’s one of the challenges of demonstrating the value of investments in that activity in the UK is that it’s closed whereas people say, ‘well I’m just going to look at it on the US archive’, when you can’t put the depth of the crawling and the targeted nature towards British cultural life it is not better on the internet archive.

It’s a wonderful resource for anyone who uses it a lot, but it has limitations in that it doesn’t go very far or very deep on a lot of sides and you don’t have the structure around it or the focus on say the UK elections and that kind of thing that you would get in the UK Web Archive.

Jon Agar: I was thinking about these digital storytelling short videos as a way of challenging biases in subjects and how do you get round echo chamber effect.

Essentially once these short videos are in the wild and they are shared by people, usually things which they agree with, which generally align with their assumption. They’re also within essentially the same range of interests. So it’s very difficult to get these short of videos out and in front the eyes of people who might be challenged by them and one of the important functions of history is to challenge assumptions.

So, how do you find ways of getting people think critically about the past in a way that can inspire the future.

Brian: It’s a great question. At the moment, I think the project is not yet developed enough to tackle that question. I’m also working on a book about a technocritical thinkers and from my perspective, I’d like to see our library as it grows, to be enriched by perspectives from thinkers about technology, who can provide that critical angle.

I don’t know how that’s going to sit with the funders, the Interact Network, who have funded the past two projects that we’ve worked on and who explicitly aim to promote the adoption of digital technologies.

And in fact, Ahmad and I had an argument about the wording the gateway video for the library that we’re aspiring to create, around the word choice.

And I said, no, we have to say smart choice. We must say smart choice because otherwise we’re leaving out that that critical dimension. So, there you go.

Sorry, that’s not a very satisfactory answer. But I think we just, once we’ve got a wider library then hopefully, we can position some videos within that library which can provide some more of that critical dimension.

That may just remain an enduring paradox here because in a way that audience isn’t going to look at those libraries unless they are interested in adopting these technologies or thinking proactively about how long we can do that.

Will they also consider questions about, I don’t know, de-growth or digital minimalism or things like that?

James Flack: Thanks to the panel for the discussion. Quite likely you’re focusing on access, but I’ve got another question. And that is all about knowing where the resources are. Is there an index over the extant resources that might be useful for the histories of the internet?

For instance, recently I’ve heard about resources at Blackford Hill Observatory in Edinburgh and I myself have got stuff that I’m just about to throw away that is I think relevant from the early history of artificial intelligence in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, including tapes. Is there an effort to create and provide an index of all these disparate resources? I imagine every university has got a little resource hidden away in the library.

Mike: Maybe you could take it from an international point of view Niels and Jane from the UK.

Niels: I’m not very familiar with the UK in this respect. But looking from my own country, Denmark, I’m not sure there is anything systematically going on in terms of collecting things. It’s more likely you saying, ‘oh my god, I’ve got all this stuff’ what do I do with it? Where do I go? And it’s my impression that cultural heritage institutions, they’re not betting together as it’s about resources spent to receive it, to read up on it, manage it and do things with it.

Mike: So an index of the leading collections would be quite useful.

Niels: There are web indexes about web archives in Denmark, you can find a Wikipedia page that lists all the international web archives and collections.

Also, there is an international web archive coalition called the Internet Preservation Consortium and they have a long list of all the web archives that are part of their organisation. So that’s also a place to start if you want to study the web as it’s being archived.

Jane: It’s a pretty desperate picture, I think, and it involves going to lots of different, centralising bodies, I suppose, that the National Archives has an excellent listing of small archives across the UK, it’s quite accessible through its discovery catalogue where there are thousands with detailed information about the kinds of collections that they hold.

Towards the national collection, I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, which the current funding stream within the UK to look at building a national cultural heritage collection which takes in libraries, archives museums.

John Agar and I involved in a project with the Science Museum group within that to expose some of those collections and that’s starting to link up between small collections such as Salts Mill in Saltaire with what’s held in the Science Museum Group and trying to build those links as well.

And Niels has mentioned the International Internet Preservation Consortium but there isn’t one place to look, they are dotted around, but they’re starting to be aggregating points that means there might be a way to look into three or four places rather than 30.

But I completely agree with colleagues in our library and archive when their initial reaction to anyone wanting to deposit collections with them is sort of horror.

So, what happens to those small collections is really important, but no one’s got the resources to take them on is a really interesting and tricky issue.

Mike: But I think maybe offline it’d be good if you would think about the best way to create at least the UK index of the leading collections and maybe a better link to an international list as well. I don’t think we’re going to resolve it now, I just think the concept of an index is a good idea.

Man in the room: As a hobby, I’ve been very much involved with genealogy and family history. One of the things that I have noticed is there’s a lot of people that are interested in it. For instance, few years ago, there was an excellent website, privately maintained by a particular individual on the history of Watford.

Including a lot of individual research. The first I knew that he’d died and the website was taken down. There are quite a lot of smaller cases I know about, where in the past people would have written books and are now putting their content online with original research and it’s getting lost.

Jane: I think that comes directly back to the value of the UK Web Archive because that website will be in the UK Web Archive. It will be there but at the moment you could only look at it by having that access to it.

Niels: Actually, family history has been a strong driver in the development of the web.

Mike: We’ll take the last question online as we are time limited.

Stephanie: Hi, I’m Stephanie. I’m the co-host, and I’m asking a question on behalf of Jane Vincent. Jane has asked, does the panel have any suggestions for funding opportunities to deliver new research? I’m thinking particularly of histories of women in technology.

Mike: I’m happy to take that offline with Jane Vincent unless people want to respond from the floor today. Okay, I’ll contact Jane Vincent offline if you don’t mind, Stephanie.

Well, can we thank the first panellists, that was great.

I would like to now move to the next panel, panel 2, which is on Innovations and Implementation, Successes and Failures.


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