Blog archiving: a contributor's perspective
The following is a guest post from Jo Stanley, author and blogger. We've been archiving Jo's blog in the UK Web Archive since April 2011.
I’m Jo Stanley and I call myself a creative historian and occasionally ‘a lifestory midwife’. People who worked on ships are my special area of historical interest. One of the books that will come out of all my hundreds of hours at the BL is Risk! Women on the Wartime Seas, a history of the women who were at sea in surprising numbers in WW1 and WW2 (Yale University Press).
A lot of my products are based on the stories people tell me. But I use the British Library for my background research: autobiographies, histories, theoretical interpretations. I’ve been a fan – no other word will do - for about thirty years and remember my excitement when first I registered. My appreciation of the Library’s preserving role increased a hundred-fold when I was given a behind-the-scenes tour at Colindale.
In 2011 when staff from the UK Web Archive at BL emailed the news that my blog was one of those selected to be archived for posterity that really gave me a boost. And it changed my blogging practices. I write more frequently and more carefully, because of a greater sense of its significance. My entries are now made at least twice a month. I spend hours, no longer minutes, writing each entry as vividly and elegantly as I can; I make more effort to explain significances and acronyms.
Having your blog harvested feels an oddly alienated experience. It’s like being a rose that knows the gardener is plucking it, but never feels the secateurs nor sees itself finally arranged in the vase with all the other blooms. So it really helped when the Head of Web Archiving Helen Hockx-Yu took the time to show me how the process worked. In her office papered with Chinese poems on the Underground I saw the crawler in operation, scuttling round and scooping up other’s blogs and websites like some diligent crab from a William Gibson sci-fi story. Finding out the program’s name, Heritrix, seemed to make the process feel more comprehensible. OK, it’s just another clever piece of software, like Photoshop. Hearing that I was one of the 10,000 websites owners and bloggers helped me see my in/significance within the UK Web Archive; it’s a bit like looking your house via Google Earth. And understanding that my ‘donation’ was collected every six months helped me get a sense that there was someone listening.
Books I’ve written have been in the library for years but having my blog saved there feels extra special.