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

08 September 2020

UKWA available in reading rooms again

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, The British Library

Much of the UK Web Archive content is only available in the reading rooms of UK Legal Deposit Libraries as current legislation regulates access. All libraries were closed for many months during the COVID-19 lockdown, however, a phased reopening has begun. 

Below is some basic information of what current access is available at Legal Deposit Libraries with links to more detail. Note opening times were correct at the time of publishing this article, library websites should be checked for current opening times.

British Library reading room

British Library

London, St Pancras

Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 – 15.00

Boston Spa

Tuesday – Friday 11.00 – 15.00

You’ll need to pre-book online for whatever you would like to see at the Library. At the moment you can pre-book:

National Library of Scotland

Edinburgh reading rooms

Our Edinburgh reading rooms have reopened to existing and new library card holders, on a pre-booked basis only, with revised opening hours. Readers must book and preorder items 24 hours in advance.

General Reading Room and Special Collections Reading Room:

Tuesday-Saturday, 10.00-16.00

Kelvin Hall

We anticipate that the Library at Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, will reopen around mid-September.

National Library of Wales

The Reading Room is open to the public with a restricted service. You will have to book your place online before your visit. For more details on this and to read strict guidelines regarding the nature of the restricted service and what is expected of you go to Guidelines on re-opening.

(Reading Rooms only)

Monday - Friday: 10:00-12.30 and 13.30-16.00

Saturday: Closed

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Libraries have begun a phased reopening to staff, students and Bodleian Reader Card holders.

To help us keep you safe, and make sure we follow government and University guidelines, you'll need to book your visit in advance.

Weston Library (and several others)

Monday - Friday 1000-1600

Cambridge University Libraries

Cambridge University Library is now open for limited services from Monday-Friday. Book a visit to view non-borrowable material in the Main reading room or a Special Collections reading room. Please read more about our phased reopening of the UL and Faculty and Departmental Libraries.

Monday-Friday 10:15 -15:45 for limited services.

Trinity College, Dublin

Library reading rooms are now open for current staff and students. Face coverings are required. "Click and Collect" items will now be delivered to Library buildings. Goldsmith Hall is no longer used for collections or returns.

Monday-Friday 0930-1700

25 August 2020

Cats vs Dogs on the Archived Web

 By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives at the British Library


Cats and dogs, two of the most popular pets in the world, have international days of celebration in August. The 8th August is International Cat Day and the 26th August is International Dog Day. 


How popular are cats and dogs on the archived web?


Cats vs Dogs
Screenshot of the search results on Shine for Cat and Dog


One way to answer this question is to use the Shine Trends feature. 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.


Taking the Shine graph at face value, overall it would seem that cats are more popular on the archived .uk domain than dogs.


The graph shows the percentage of resources archived for each year. In some cases the largest peak on the graph doesn’t necessarily mean the most mentions for your search; this could be attributed to a larger amount of data archived for that particular year. However, when it comes to ‘Cats vs Dogs’, the largest peak for ‘Cat’ is the most popular year while the most popular year for ‘Dog’ is slightly below the peak in the graph.  In 2005, there were almost 14.2 million mentions of ‘cat’ out of 331 million resources archived. While in 2012, there were almost 13 million mentions of ‘Dog’ out of 464 million resources archived that year.

It is not possible to view every archived resource attributed to the generated stats, but you can click on markers along the plotted graph and you will be supplied with a random sample of matching records for that year. The sample displays a sentence where the term appears, as well as a link out to the Internet Archive so that you can review the archived website.

When we review the random sample for ‘Cat’ generated for 2005, we can see that very few of the references are to our furry friends; instead, the word “Cat” mostly refers to an abbreviation for catalogue (for shopping online). This reflects a lot of the changes in how the web is used and online shopping became more popular during this period. By looking through some of the other samples we can see the use of the term ‘CAT’ as an acronym for various different systems.

On the other hand, when we look at the sample results for ‘Dog’ in 2012, most of the results are about the animal or related products such as dog food and dog accessories.


Possible big data project


After reviewing the use of the term ‘Cat’ and ‘Dog’ can we really say that the animal-related variation is the most popular on the archived .uk domain?

A possible way to truly determine which family pet is the most popular would be through an in depth analysis of the .UK domain. Something similar to the project, ‘Mining the UK Web Archive for Semantic Change Detection’ run by the Alan Turing Institute, would provide more insight into which animal is more popular in this dataset. 

This project identified words whose meaning has changed over time on the archived web. For example, when the word ‘tweet’ stopped being commonly referred to as the sound a bird makes and used more often to describe the message being sent through the social media platform Twitter.

Pierpaolo Basile, a visiting researcher at the Alan Turing Institute, used the same data that is behind Shine in his research project ‘Detecting semantic shift in large corpora by exploiting temporal random indexing’. You can watch a recording of a presentation about this research on the Alan Turing Institute YouTube channel.


What cats and dogs websites are in the UK Web Archive?


The general UK Web Archive and a number of curated collections on the Topics and Themes page of the website feature many animal-related websites, and a lot of these focus on cats and dogs. Although archiving social media is very challenging, we do have a wide selection of Twitter accounts in the archive. These include many cat persona profiles; from libraries to political cats. Some of the political cats included in the archive are Larry the Cat from 10 Downing Street and Palmerston from the Foreign Office. We haven’t come across any similar UK dog persona profiles so if you know of any please nominate them to be included in the UK Web Archive. However, there are other Twitter profiles that collect images of dogs such as Non-League Dogs. This profile is included in both the soccer section of our Sport: Football collection as well as our Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK collection.

Animal welfare websites are also well represented in our UK General Election series of collections dating from 2005 to 2019, as many publish political manifestos during the election period.

As mentioned in the International Owl Awareness Day blog post, the Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK curated collection has an Animal Related Hobbies subsection. Here you can find a number of cat and dog-related sites but we know there are many more out there. Why not nominate your favourite websites and forums?


How can you access these archived websites?


Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013, we can archive UK websites but we are only able to make them available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. The UK Legal Deposit Libraries are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin Library.  Some of the sites in the collection have already had permission granted, such as the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Cats Protection and Library Cat. Some examples of websites that are onsite-only access include Dogs Trust, Dog Forum and Purrs In Our Hearts Forum.


As the content of the UK Web Archive has mixed access, the message ‘Viewable only on Library premises’ will appear under the title if you need to visit a Legal Deposit Library to view the content. If there is no message underneath then the archived version of the website should be available on your personal device.


Get involved with preserving cats and dogs 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. Animals and especially pets in the UK are an important aspect of our collective national culture and are represented in several collections across the UK Legal Deposit Libraries, 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:


Browse through what we have so far and please nominate more content!


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!


31 July 2020

LGBTQ+ Lives Online

 A white banner with the LGBTQ+ flag colours painted on with the text - love is love
Photo by 42 North from Pexels

By Steven Dryden, British Library LGBTQ+ Staff Network & Ash Green CILIP LGBTQ+ Network


When the internet first rose to prominence in the late 1990s, one of the primary modes of communicating with others was through internet chat rooms and forums. Suddenly, isolated people all over the world with a personal computer and internet access could communicate with others ‘like them’.

By using the term ‘like them’ we acknowledge that there is some form of social oppression which makes a person, perhaps alone in a rural community, feel unable to be themselves - to know anything about themselves at all. It is perhaps partly for the need to feel more connected with other people ‘like them’ that LGBTQ+ people adapted to online community-building quickly. Now, as we have been living online for over 25 years, it seems pertinent to consider what traces of early digital lives survive, and how we can begin to make sense of it. What survives of digital campaigns to legalise the age of consent for all sexualities in the UK (2001), gain recognition and protections of members of the trans community (Gender Recognition Act 2004) or the battle for marriage equality in the UK (England and Wales, 2013, Scotland 2014, Northern Ireland 2019)? As well as historical content such as this, we must also ensure we are ready and able to curate current and future online discussions and websites surrounding LGBTQ+ lives as well.

Part of this process has already begun. Through the UK Web Archive, the British Library along with the other five UK Legal Deposit Libraries, has been able to run an annual domain crawl of the UK web since April 2013, after the implementation of Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations. Prior to this websites were archived on a permissions basis since January 2005. Through the Shine interface you can search the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (1996-2013), this holds all the .uk websites archived by the Internet Archive from 1996 to April 2013. As a next step, the British Library and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) LGBTQ+ Network are pleased to work collaboratively and develop LGBTQ+ Lives Online. This project will tag and subject categorise relevant websites in the UK Web Archive, and expand the scope of websites we collect for future generations. We look forward to sharing with you over the coming months the work that is being undertaken and how you can contribute.

CILIP LGBTQ+ Network members are pleased to be working collaboratively with the British Library and the UK Web Archive on this project, and recognise the historical value and importance of developing the LGBTQ+ Lives Online web archive.

The aim of the UK Web Archive is to collect content published on the UK web that reflects all aspects of life in the UK. This includes important aspects of British culture and events that shape society. The LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection reflects the important role this community plays in British society. The UK Web Archive is delighted to collaborate with the British Library LGBTQ+ Staff Network and the CILIP LGBTQ+ Network to build on the existing LGBTQ+ collection. Although there is a dedicated collection about the LGBTQ+ community, many of the websites tagged in this collection also intersect with other collections in the archive such as our various sports collections, Political Action and Communication and Oral History in the UK.


Get Involved:

CILIP LGBTQ+ Network, the British Library and the UK Web Archive welcome nominations for UK websites which should be included in the LGBTQ+ Lives Online.

Nominations can be made via this form:


Keep an eye on the CILIP LGBTQ+ Network Twitter as well as the UK Web Archive blog and Twitter account for more updates on the LGBTQ+ Lives Online collection.


29 July 2020

15 Years of UKWA - Looking back at our first collections

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, The British Library


This blog follows on from ‘15 Years of the UK Web Archive - The Early Years’.

2020 marks fifteen years since  the UK Web Archive (UKWA) started archiving UK published  websites. In this blog I’ll be looking at the first curated collections that were made and some of the differences in web archiving from then until now.

In 2005, when the British Library (as part of the UK Web Archive Consortium (UKWAC)) started collecting websites, the techniques and procedures were still being pioneered. It was identified early on that grouping captured websites into collections would be useful for future researchers. Read about a few of our first.


Indian Ocean Tsunami 

On Boxing day 2004, a huge earthquake and subsequent Tsunami caused severe destruction and loss of life in many areas around the Indian Ocean. Almost immediately afterwards a huge international relief effort was underway that included several UK based efforts. This catastrophic event happened just at the point that UKWAC started archiving websites and curators quickly decided that this deserved to be reflected in the archive . Selection and archiving took place between January and March 2005. It resulted in a small collection of websites representing news articles, charities and the response from travel companies.

This first collection demonstrated the ability of web archives to collect digital material around key events as they happened. Indian Ocean Tsunami collection


Indian Ocean


UK General Election 2005
In addition to ‘rapid response’ events, UKWA aims to collect important national events such as elections. 2005 was a period before fixed term elections and the curation team had only a matter of weeks to organise a plan between the government calling the election and it taking place. The way that candidates promoted themselves was different in 2005 than they are now. Only some had their own websites, Facebook was not yet widespread and Twitter didn’t yet exist. It is a fascinating contrast between the 2005 UK General Election and the last one in 2019 both in number (148 v 2,234) and in the range and breadth of the collection.


View of Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster from the opposite side if the River Thames


We all now know what a blog is, right? In 2005 though, it was a relatively new way for people to self publish on the web. It was so new that when the collection was first made we felt the need to explain what one was and that it was a shortening of ‘web log’.

Since then, of course, blogs have been a widespread form of self expression and creativity. They cover every imaginable subject from politics to satire, local history to personal history and many more. This collection contains over 1000 blogs, many of which are no longer available. See what you can find in the Blogs collection.


Image of word tiles spelling the word blog


Selective curation

Since 2013, thanks to the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations, the UK Web Archive is able to archive any UK published website. Prior to 2013, however, curators had to obtain permission from the website owner before any archiving  could take place. UKWA has always tried to collect a representative sample of the UK web which can include a very wide range of topics and opinions. We have always tried to be clear that selection is not endorsement, either of views or of quality. Each item in the collection is rich in its own way.


100+ curated collections and counting

Since these first collections in 2005, the number of collections has grown to over 100.  See all of our curated collections here.

We have continued to respond to important events with ‘rapid response’ collections such as the Zika Virus outbreak of 2016-2017 and the death of Margaret Thatcher in 2013. We have also continued to collect political events such as General elections, Scottish and Welsh Parliamentary elections and several key referendums such as the EU referendum. We also try to represent all parts of the UK from the FTSE100 to the lives and hobbies of the nation in ‘Online enthusiasts’.


24 June 2020

Our new Science web archive collection

By Philip Eagle, Subject Librarian - Science, Technology and Medicine at The British Library
Air pump CC0
A Philosopher Shewing an Experiment on the Air Pump, 1769 by Valentine Green



We have just activated our new web archive collection on science in the UK. One of the British Library's objectives as an institution as a whole is to increase our profile and level of service to the science community. In pursuit of this aim we are curating a web archive collection in collaboration with the UK legal deposit libraries. We have some collections already on science related subjects such as the late Stephen Hawking and science at Cambridge University, but not science as a whole.


Collection scope

We have interpreted "science" widely to include engineering and communications, but not IT, as that already has a collection. Our collection is arranged according to the standard disciplines such as biology, chemistry, engineering, earth sciences and physics, and then subdivided according to their common divisions, based on the treatment of science in the Universal Decimal Classification.

The collection has a wide range of types of site. We have tried to be fairly exhaustive on active UK science-related blogs, learned societies, charities, pressure groups, and museums. Because of the sheer number of university departments in the UK, we have not been able to cover them all. Instead we have selected the departments that did best in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and then taken a random sample to make sure that our collection properly reflects the whole world of academic science in the UK. We are also adding science-related Twitter accounts. Social media is generally difficult to archive due to its proprietary nature, but Twitter is open source so we can archive this more easily.



Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013 we can archive UK websites but we are only able to make them available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. Some of the sites in the collection have already had permission granted, such as the Hunterian Society, Dame Athene Donald’s blog, and the Royal College of Anaesthetists. Some others who have not given permission include Science Sparks, the Wellcome Collection, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. The Web Archive page will tell you whether any archived site is only viewable from a library, anything with no statement can be viewed on the public web.

Get involved

As ever, if you have a site to nominate that has been left out, you can tell us by filling in our public nomination form: