THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

02 January 2013

Slavery and Abolition in the Caribbean: a new special collection

[A guest post by Dr Philip Hatfield, Curator for Canadian and Caribbean Studies at the British Library.]

Back in July I added a short post to this blog about the first stages of selecting material for the UK Web Archive Special Collection, ‘Slavery and Abolition in the Caribbean’. Now, after much trawling of the web and selection of sites, and brilliant work from my colleagues from the UK Web Archive (whose determination and technical wizardry know no bounds) I’m delighted to say that the first iteration is now live for public use. You can access it here, and I hope you find it of use.

Before I go though, some further thoughts about web archiving in the context of this collection. The first thing to note is how important this kind of work is for maintaining a record of not just the Web but writing, publishing and commemoration more generally in the early 21st century. There Plan of the slave ship Brookes are many websites and pages produced during the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade that have either disappeared or no longer have a contactable administrator who can grant the Web Archive rights to collect and display the site. And so, valuable resources for understanding the UK’s engagement with the history of slavery and the politics of remembrance are lost to us.

Following on from this it is impossible to overstate the importance of permissions to the construction of viable collections within the UK Web Archive. Permissions allow sites to be archived and made available to the public and are key to providing a comprehensive research resource. Without them, a collection may not reflect completely the selections of the curator or material that is live on the Web, which is partly the case with the ‘Slavery and Abolition in the Caribbean’ collection. We’ll keep trying with those sites for which we have not yet got permission;  but I am very grateful to those institutions and individuals who have taken the time to consider our request and grant permission.

Highlighting these problems brings me to my main point: this is an evolving collection driven by the need to continue to archive what already exists on the Web and also relevant sites created in future. This is where, hopefully, readers of this post and users of the collection come in. I hope the process of building and maintaining this collection can become a dialogue between users, myself and the UKWA. If you know or moderate a site you think should be part of the collection please do get in touch with me, at philip.hatfield@bl.uk.

[The image is part of a plan of the slave ship Brookes, found in various archived sites, including that of Brycchan Carey . Originally from Thomas Clarkson’s, ‘The history of the rise, progress and accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave trade by the British Parliament’ [BL Shelfmark: 522.f.23]

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