UK Web Archive blog

Information from the team at the UK Web Archive, the Library's premier resource of archived UK websites

The UK Web Archive, the Library's premier resource of archived UK websites


News and views from the British Library’s web archiving team and guests. Posts about the public UK Web Archive, and since April 2013, about web archiving as part as non-print legal deposit. Editor-in-chief: Jason Webber. Read more

10 August 2020

Going for gold: exploring Olympic & Paralympic resources

By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives, The British Library


BL Olympics website 2012
Screenshot of the British Library website related to social science research and the Olympics/Paralympics during London 2012


Originally, Sunday 9th August, 2020 would have been the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and we would have been waiting for the start of the Paralympics. However due to the coronavirus pandemic most events big and small were either cancelled, went online or were postponed till 2021. Even though Tokyo 2020 was postponed until 2021, the symposium Documenting the Olympics & Paralympics, which was supposed to be a full day face-to-face event, went online. The event was a much shorter panel session, held via Zoom on the 19th June, 2020.

This was a collaboration between the British Library, the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) at De Montfort University, and the British Society of Sports History (BSSH).

The event was organised not only because 2020 was supposed to be an Olympic and Paralympic year, but also because the UK Web Archive team at the British Library were celebrating two significant anniversaries. It is 15 years since the UK Web Archive was founded. It is also 10 years since the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) started Olympic and Paralympic collaborative web archive collections.



Laura Alexandra Brown, Northumbria University - The heritage of the Games: Interpreting urban change in Olympic host cities

Heather Dichter, De Montfort University - Finding Olympic history in non-sport archives

Robert McNicol, Librarian, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum - Researching the Olympics/Paralympics at Wimbledon

Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives, British Library - Preserving the Olympics/Paralympics online



A broad mix of physical, digitised and born digital resources were covered in the presentations. You can listen back to an audio recording of this symposium on the Sport in History Podcast. While the full abstracts and some of the PowerPoint slides are available on the British Library Research Repository. The official hashtag for the event on Twitter was, #ResearchingTheGames where you can catch up with the online discussions.

Laura Alexandra Brown from Northumbria University, discussed her experience of using archives in her research that primarily relates to architectural design and reuse from the perspective of the Olympic Games.

Heather Dichter from De Montfort University, discussed her experience of using non-sporting archives to research international sport and diplomacy. The aim of this presentation was to highlight to researchers that valuable resources can be also found in non-sporting archives as well as for archivists so that they can help researchers.

Robert McNicol the Librarian at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, reviewed the history of Wimbledon and the Olympics as well as discussed their collection policy around past and future Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Helena Byrne the Curator of Web Archives at the British Library, discussed the UK Web Archive collections related to the Olympics/Paralympics as well as their general sports collection policy. Along with the ongoing collaboration with the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC).


Next event:

We are still planning to hold a face-to-face event at the British Library in July 2021. This will be a full day symposium with a social event planned after the presentations. This event is sponsored by the British Library, ICSHC at De Montfort University, BSSH and the School of Advanced Studies.

We will closely monitor the guidance on coronavirus and social gatherings. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that by next summer planned events can go ahead.

For more details follow the BSSH website, social media, the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) Twitter, the UK Web Archive Twitter as well as the #ResearchingTheGames hashtag on Twitter. Joining details will be posted online in spring 2021.


04 August 2020

Attending my first IIPC General Assembly

By Carlos Lelkes-Rarugal, Assistant Web Archivist, The British Library

For some, a General Assembly isn’t a well-understood thing, I for one wasn’t entirely sure what it is exactly other than a meeting of sorts. As is often the case, a General Assembly allows the representative members of an organisation to meet in what is usually a once-yearly forum to talk about activities, express opinions, make recommendations, and discuss any other relevant news. More importantly, it allows members to reconnect.

I attended my first General Assembly in mid-June. The International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) has held its annual meetings for over a decade, the organisation has been around for over 17 years and comprises of members from across the world.  The British Library is a founding member of the IIPC, and the British Library is part of the UK Web Archive, which itself is a collaboration between the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries. I have worked at the UK Web Archive for over 3 years now, and this was the first time I attended an IIPC General Assembly.


How it came about

Every year, the IIPC hosts events, both virtual and in-person, bringing together IIPC members and non-members. But once a year, the General Assembly (GA) takes place (this is only for IIPC members), closely followed by the Web Archiving Conference (WAC) which is open to all. The GA and WAC are hosted by IIPC members and the places alternate between different parts of the world.


IIPC General Assembly and Web Archiving Conferences 2007-2021 Map



 If you haven’t attended a WAC, I highly recommend it, as the hosting venues differ year to year (New Zealand 2018, Croatia 2019 and Luxemburg 2021) and the variety of talks and workshops available are a rich source of information, both for web archiving practitioners and researchers.

The British Library’s web archiving team do try to send representatives, such as our technical lead (Andrew Jackson), our Lead Curator of Web Archives (Nicola Bingham), and our Engagement & Liaison Officer (Jason Webber).

In 2019, I was fortunate enough to attend the WAC  but I missed out on the GA as I had only signed up for the WAC; the GA is open to all members and not just their representatives. And, it seemed like 2020 would have been missed too; it was to be held in Montreal in June, but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Planning for both the GA and the WAC falls on to the hosting institution and the IIPC Programmes & Communications Officer, Olga Holownia, who is based at the British Library and is part of the UK Web Archive team. Unfortunately, many months of planning were made redundant as Covid-19 hit. Initially, and very early on, both events were rescheduled, however as things worsened and uncertainty around international travel loomed, the decision was taken to suspend and eventually cancel the GA and WAC. Olga was then able to rapidly reschedule a virtual alternative, albeit somewhat trimmed. Re-jigging the GA was still no easy feat, even with Olga’s experience planning previous GAs and WACs.

One of the many positives about an online GA is the accessibility, other than the set fees members pay towards the IIPC, there was no additional cost to attend the zoom call. It also means more members can take part, whereas before, the travel costs to members might have been prohibitive and so not all members would have sent representatives. This time around, given the time differences of each member’s respective countries, two online calls were organised to accommodate for as many attendees as possible. Fortunately for me, this now meant that I could attend one of the calls.


A photo of a full conference room at the British Library at the IIPC Web Archiving Annual Conference in 2017
WAC at the British Library in 2017, photo by Olga Holownia


What is the purpose of the GA

Many members, see it as a very good opportunity for networking. The agenda for the online GA was substantially shortened as the call itself was two hours in length.

This was the agenda:

  • Introduction
  • PCO Report
  • IIPC Budget
  • New Consortium Agreement 
  • Discretionary Programme Funding (DFP)
  • Tools Development Portfolio Update
  • Updates from Working Groups

The IIPC currently consists of 58 members, and membership is growing  The members share a desire to better understand the preservation of websites by developing standards and tools;  through collaboration on tool development and sustainability, transnational collections, information exchange, research initiatives, workshops, training, and so on.

 With so much occurring throughout the year, not just within the IIPC but within each member’s organisation, it can be quite difficult to keep atop of the main developments. The GA gives you an opportunity to:

  • Highlight the work being done by the IIPC and its members
  • Learn about current and planned outreach
  • Find out about the progress on Portfolios, Working Groups and the IIPC members involved in leading and running different initiatives
  • Development on IIPC governance such as the updated Consortium Agreement
  • New opportunities for project funding and progress on past and currently funded projects
  • Strategy goals including tools development, preservation, training, research, and more.


My highlights

2020 really should have been a more celebrated year in web archiving because many institutions have reached significant milestones; the National Library of Spain was celebrating 10 years, the UK Web Archive is 15 years old this year and the web archiving programme at the Library of Congress is now 20 years old. And though it’s a shame we aren’t all able to gather and celebrate these achievements, we can still appreciate those milestones. Here are some of my highlights from the 2020 online GA:

  • Launched in February, the Content Development Group (CDG) Covid-19 collection has gained a lot of attention, not only have over 30 members contributed thousands of seeds, they have also been sharing information about their Covid-collecting activities. Understanding what type of content they collect, the tools used, and collaborations with institutions and researchers will give the web archiving community and researchers a good idea of different practices and approaches when building rapid response collections.
  • IIPC can offer funding support through their Discretionary Funding Programme
  • The Training Working Group founded in 2017, worked with the Digital Preservation Coalition to create training modules, which are now available on the IIPC website. Other modules will also be developed in the future.
  • Research Engagement Guidelines available on the IIPC website
  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) and the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) are working together to bring to the web archiving community a tool for scalable web archive visualisation: LinkGate. This is an IIPC funded project.
  • Another project that has wrapped up is the Jupyter Notebooks for web archives; led by the British Library’s Andrew Jackson, working with Tim Sherratt
  • Python Wayback project is being actively developed, to help migrate institutions off older playback tools such as Open Wayback. The UK Web Archive adopted this last year and it greatly improved the playback of our archived websites.
  • The National Library of Australia Web Archive is developing a variable crawler that can re-crawl of individual webpages of a certain domain, without having to crawl entire domain. This adaptive re-scheduler, called Chronicrawl looks very promising.


Final thoughts

It’s difficult to compare a virtual GA against a face-to-face alternative, as this was the first of its kind that I’ve attended and the first GA that I’ve ever attended.  IIPC members are active and collaborate through many different channels; so, having the chance to meet other members in person can’t be replicated and superseded by an entirely virtual assembly as members rarely ever get a chance to see each other in person. However, the virtual meeting did allow for broader and increased participation and a lot of very interesting information was exchanged. I’m not sure what middle ground could be achieved, but the 2020 online GA was conceived in such a short a period and was pulled off so successfully, and it seems like the format could be emulated and perhaps developed further. I can’t imagine it fully replacing face-to-face meetups, but it’s great to know that it can be done online. Given the current situation and because of the direct and indirect pressures caused by the outbreak, I do feel fortunate that alternative methods of communication are being found and maintained and even sustained. Many thanks again to Olga for making it all happen, I look forward to the next event.


Twit twoo: International Owl Awareness Day 2020

By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives, The British Library
An illustration of four owls perched on a branch with the moonlight behind them
British Library digitised image from page 271 of "Madeline Power [A novel]


The 4th of August is International Owl Awareness Day. This is the perfect time to reflect on owl related content in the UK Web Archive. 

There are five native species of owls’ resident year-round in the UK, namely the Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl and Little Owl. Also, the Snowy Owl is an is an occasional winter visitor to the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and the Cairngorms in Scotland.

Owls online

We were wondering, out of these six owl species, which one is the most popular on the archived .uk domain?


UK Owl Species Shine Trends
A graph showing how many mentions the six owl species have on the archived .uk web


In order to answer this question, the Shine graph may prove useful. Shine was developed as part of the Big UK Data Arts and Humanities project funded by the AHRC. The data was acquired by JISC from the Internet Archive and includes all .uk websites in the Internet Archive web collection crawled between 1996 and April 2013. The collection comprises over 3.5 billion items (URLs, images and other documents) and has been full-text indexed by the UK Web Archive. Every word of every website in the collection can be searched for and analysed.

The most popular owl species referenced in the Shine dataset is the Barn Owl. Despite the curve in the graph being at its peak in 2011, the most popular year for the Barn Owl was 2012. This is because the graph shows the percentage of resources archived for each year and some years have more resources than others. In 2011 there were 66,034 of 288,809,412 archived resources that mention Barn Owl, while in 2012 there were 94,990 of 463,367,189 resources. These numbers are too big to review manually but by clicking at a single point on the graph, Shine will generate a random sample of up to 100 references to the search term. The sample displays a sentence were the term appears, as well as a link out to the Internet Archive so that you can review the archived website.


Get creative with owls at the British Library

Video created by Carlos Lelkes-Rarugal, using Tawny Owl hoots recorded by Richard Margoschis in Gloucestershire, England (BL ref 09647). British Library digitised image from page 272 of "The Works of Alfred Tennyson, etc" 


Curious about what some of these owls’ sound like? Our Assistant Web Archivist, Carlos Lelkes-Rarugal, designed some short animated videos using recordings from the British Library Sound Archive and images from the British Library Flickr account. You can view these on the UK Web Archive, Digital Scholarship and the Sound Archive’s Wildlife Department Twitter accounts.

The title for this blog post was inspired by the sound made by the Tawny Owl. This and other sounds can be experienced in the Sound Archive at the British Library which has over 2,500 recordings of owls from all over the world. You can hear a selection of some these recordings on the British Library, Sound & Vision blog.

The Digital Scholarship team have also put together a useful album of digitised illustrations of owls on the British Library Flickr account. Their latest blog post encourages you to use these images for various creative projects.


Get involved with preserving owls online with the UK Web Archive

The UK Web Archive aims to archive, preserve and give access to the UK web space. We endeavour to include important aspects of British culture and events that shape society. The biodiversity of the UK is an important aspect of our collective national culture and is represented in several British Library collections including the UK Web Archive.

We can’t however, curate the whole of the UK Web on our own, we need your help to ensure that information, discussion and creative output on this subject are preserved for future generations.

Anyone can suggest UK websites to be included in the UK Web Archive by filling in our nominations form:

We already have an Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK curated collection that features some owl related websites in the Animal related hobbies subsection. Browse through what we have so far and please nominate more content!