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

4 posts from March 2015

25 March 2015

Political parties in the UK Web Archive

As there’s only six weeks to go until the General Election, it might be a good time to look back on the previous elections web sphere, through the 2005 and 2010 General Election websites collected by the UK Web Archive.

Political parties’ websites currently in Parliament

The Conservative party:
The Labour Party:
Liberal democrats:
Green Party:


Scottish parties

Scottish National Party (SNP): Scottish Socialist Party:

Welsh parties

Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales:

Northern Ireland parties

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP):
Sinn Fein :
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP):
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP):
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland:


Other parties

Respect Party:
British National Party (BNP):
The Liberal party:
Socialist labour party:


English Democrats:
The Christian party:
Health Concern (Independent Community & Health Concern):
Monster raving loony party:


You can also find former candidacy websites on the UK Web Archive. This might be interesting to check if old promises have been fulfilled. Below are some examples, but you can also try any other candidate by typing his or her name in the quick search box:

David Miliband (2010)
Nick Clegg (2010):
Nigel Farage (2010):
Caroline Lucas (2010):
David Cameron (2005):


 Enjoy !

Clémence Agostini (intern at the BL Web Archiving team from ENSSIB)


13 March 2015

France - UK: complementary views on web archiving


Considering the nature of the web, it is fairly impossible to archive all of it, and choices have to be made. Usually two strategies are combined. The first one aims at being representative, by collecting a sample of everything without discrimination. The second one selects websites in order to build a collection, the way libraries are used to do with more traditional material. UK and France both combine the two methods.

UK has recently changed its legislation (6th April 2013) to embrace non-print resources in the legal deposit scope, including web sites. France had already done that shift in 2006.

Both national libraries use robots to broadly crawl the national web every year. In UK the crawling is done by the British Library. The National Archive also collects web sites related to government (UK Government web archive), but this comes under another regulation, the Public Records Act. In France, INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel) archives all the websites related to radio and television, while BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) is in charge of all the rest.

To complete this broad harvesting both countries create collections on specific topics, made of websites collected by curators in their area of expertise. To do so, national libraries may be helped by partners: researchers, associations but mostly other libraries. In UK five other libraries are in charge of legal deposit and participate in web archiving. In France a similar partnership goes on with the network of regional libraries, also contributing to legal deposit.

In BnF, the Digital Legal Deposit Department coordinates a network of correspondents in each department, where specific policies have been developed through the years. What’s happening now is that the global BnF’s selection policy is being updated and will include websites, considering they are not different from any other material, which makes sense.

Breadth vs openness

The websites collected for legal deposit purpose can only be consulted in the libraries reading rooms, for copyright reasons. But while all the websites collected by BnF are only accessible in the reading rooms dedicated to researchers, British Library gives access on the UK Web Archive to a part of its collections. This showcases websites for which permission has been obtained. This process is of course very time consuming and frustrating, for only 30% of the permission requests receive a positive answer and the vast majority receive no answer at all.

Exploring the collections

BnF proposes a research through URL and a guiding approach through specific topics, in order to give an overview of the collections. For example, one of its remarkable selections is related to private diaries on the web. Others may concern elections, sustainable development, science, and many others themes.


 It’s similar in the open UK web archive where you can browse the archive by special collection (Queen Jubilee, Northern Ireland…). As in France, the choice of a topic if often related to current affairs. At the moment, a collection about Magna Carta is being developed regarding the exhibition to come, as well as one concerning the next General Election.

Openness seems to be a good goal for highlighting the collection. The Open UK Web Archive is promoted via British Library’s website, this blog, Twitter… It provides fine visualisation tools and most importantly pretty good research functionalities. They’re based on title, URL and dates. There’s a full text index too for the massive legal deposit crawl and this is quite remarkable. (To give an idea of the magnitude of the task, it will take about six months to generate the 2014 crawling’s index). Then, when you type a research, you sometimes get really a lot of results and it can be far from easy to go through them, but this is another issue.


6-03-2015 Clémence Agostini (intern at the BL Web Archiving team from ENSSIB)

06 March 2015

2015 UK General Election Web Archive Special Collections

With just over 9 weeks to go until the UK General Election, the Web Archiving team together with curators in four Legal Deposit Libraries (the British Library, The National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland and the Bodleian Library) have been busy archiving websites for a special collection about this significant national event. 

It is a daunting task, but we are fairly experienced in this area having put together similar collections for the two past general elections, 2005 and 2010.


Sampling approach

We cannot predict the size of the UK political Web Sphere, however there are 650 parliamentary constituencies, 422 registered political parties (December 2014 the Electoral Commission) and several thousand prospective parliamentary candidates standing for election in 2015.

The vast majority of Parties and candidates are likely to have social media channels in addition to their ‘official’ websites, therefore, rather than attempting the impossible task of identifying every single political website, a sampling approach of has been applied. All major and minor UK Parties will be collected along with a representative sample of c. 120 candidates taken from one urban conurbation and one Shire County per region. For London, we have selected constituencies covering six boroughs, three inner London and three outer London. As we covered the same constituencies for the 2005 and 2010 elections we will have a time-series which will give future researchers a sense of how the Web was used by politicians across the decade.

Political landscape

In addition, the collection will comprise of a large number of news, commentary, opinion polls, research centres, think tanks and interest groups as well as some more entertaining sites such the Bus Pass Elvis Party aka Church of the Militant Elvis.

Inevitably the political landscape as well as the world of web archiving has changed in the ten years since we started archiving UK general elections. Firstly, the date of the 2015 General Election was fixed in advance following the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, meaning that campaigning started much earlier than with previous elections. This year we started collecting in January whereas in previous years it has been a bit later into the year.

Of even more significance from the web archivist’s point of view is that Legal deposit Legislation was introduced in April 2013 enabling us to archive pretty much everything we want within the UK web sphere, although permission must still be sought to make content publically accessible.

One million tweets

In terms of the content of the collection, we are certainly archiving much more social media than in previous elections.  Much has been written about the uptake in social media among politicians as they increasingly try to reach voters over the internet


MPs sent almost one million tweets in 2013 up 28 per cent on the previous year and 230 per cent from 2011. It is crucial that we work to overcome the technical and legal challenges involved in archiving social media as it is one of the most important channels for scholars studying our times and is one of the most demanded types of content by researchers.

Visual tools

The resulting collection will be available online through the UK Web Archive  in the case of content for which we have permission from website publishers, and in the reading rooms of the Legal Deposit Libraries for all other material we have collected. We also hope to continue improving access to our collections by way of data-based visual tools to access the archive's content as alternatives to the standard search and browse functions.

 In 2005, for example,  we implemented a  Word Cloud generator for websites belonging to key political parties which shows the most frequently used words in the websites during the 2005 election campaign.


We would be delighted to hear about websites related to the UK general election and would encourage readers to submit suggestions on our nomination form at


Nicola Bingham, Web Archivist



05 March 2015

Happy Birthday Magna Carta! All the best from the Web Archive xxx


With the opening of the great exhibition here at the British Library just days away, I have been working on the Magna Carta special collection for the Web Archive.

Media Coverage

By coincidence I started a couple of days after the magnificent discovery of a copy found in Sandwich in a bundle of Victorian documents. The media coverage was enormous from the leading broadsheets to the satirical Daily Mash, which claimed ‘Magna Carta gives England back to France’ in the title. Just looking through the headlines, it is quite interesting to see how the media are using the Magna Carta. The term familiar from the schooldays is used in every possible way: from the actual coverage of the 800th anniversary, auction of a copy in the US in 2007, political analysis, legal impact, British values, TV reviews of David Starkey’s programme to criticising the Prime Minister David Cameron for his performance on David Letterman’s talk show, when he could not remember what Magna Carta actually means. If that was not bad enough, the media ‘re-printed’ Boris Johnson’s defence that the PM ‘feigned ignorance’ on American TV.


Digital Magna Carta

More recently the media picked on Tim Berners-Lee’s idea of the Magna Carta for the Internet and the political idea of the new Magna Carta of the devolution of power for the regions. The online newspapers (and other websites including the Salisbury Cathedral) also wrote about Jay-Z’s album ‘Magna Carta - Holy Grail’. As a selector I am not sure whether to include the last three Magna Cartas (Internet, devolution and the album) into the collection. Is it going too far? If not, where to stop?

 Searching for a fairly popular term always brings the sigh of relief: Soooo many results – great! And at the same time the sigh of worry: Soooo many results – what am I going to do with all the material?! Also it is interesting to see the number of results – some publishers use the term ‘Magna Carta’ in many contexts hoping to attract readers, some on contrary just report the facts. The numbers of urls vary, not only because the type of audiences, but simply because the open online archives of the newspapers cover different time periods. It is also good to see how much reporting is done on the local level, particularly in the cities owning the copies of the historic document.


Soooo many results

The selections for the collection cover not only the media, but also social media coverage, arts and humanities, involvement of the church and local authorities in the celebrations, higher education events, school and research programmes, the underpinning organisation Magna Carta 800th, civil rights groups, tourist information and attractions, including the Magna Carta pub and the Magna Carta barge hotel.

There is also the coverage of the Magna Carta cake, Magna Carta chutney, Magna Carta ale, Magna Carta inspired garden for a flower show and celebrating the 800th anniversary with a #jelfie!

Surely there is more to come and I am quite curious what else the online world will say on the Magna Carta.

If you know of an event near you (no matter how low key), or you have read something interesting or just think something should be included in the collection please nominate a site here

Dorota Walker, Assistant Web-Archivist