THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

17 July 2015

Curating the Election - Archiving the most complex General Election yet…

GenEl2015_outcome
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2015

This year’s General Election is not only one of the closest fought in recent times.

With more parties in the limelight than ever before it is almost certainly the most complex.

 As so much of the election is played out in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of the Net and broadcast media, the archiving challenge is all the greater. (Many political pages disappear soon after the election results)

The Library is capturing these transient messages before they are lost. Across the Library, and across the Legal Deposit Library network, staff, led by Jennie Grimshaw in Research Engagement have been working on a special web collection, to join several General Election collections we have created in the past. 

Meanwhile, we have been adding extra recordings to the Broadcast News service (these are available within hours of having been broadcast). Because of the significant Scottish dimension, the TV channels STV and BBC Scotland have been added to the mix, creating a lasting archive for years to come.

Because we have archived the 2005 and 2010 elections we can also see that there were significant changes in the way the internet was used. And increasingly the web archive is showing how it can support long-term research of this kind.

Compared with the 2010 General Election, it is clear that there has been a mushrooming of campaigning on the web. In excess of 7,400 websites and webpages have been selected in 2015 compared to approximately 770 pages in the 2010 collection, and 139 in 2005.

One reason for this growth is the way prospective candidates now attempt to engage the electorate on multiple channels. In addition to setting up their own campaigning website and having a page on their party’s constituency website they increasingly use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to reach out to voters. For example a total 951 Twitter accounts have been selected across all the subject categories, illustrating just how prominent a part social media played.

Led by Jennie Grimshaw in Research Engagement at the British Library, the team involved included curators from the three national libraries, from Northern Ireland and the Bodleian, Library, Oxford.

One element of the project was to endeavour to capture websites from the same constituencies as selected in the 2010 and 2005 crawls, in an effort to offer some comparison on how constituency and web presences evolve from one election to the next.

UK_opinion_polling_2010-2015
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2015

The 2015 General Election web archive collection has harvested thirty-two opinion polls, 100 blogs, supplementing the comment and analysis along with more traditional news websites. There are also the webpages and publications of 62 think tanks and 412 interest groups -- all of which creates a rich online documentary archive around the Election, including much material which will disappear rapidly from the live web.  

By Jerry Jenkins, Curator of Emerging Media at the British  Library

note by the editor: the links provided in this post link to the Open UK Web Archive, which gives access to archived webpages where permission has been granted for open access. The complete collections for all three General Elections can only be accessed in the British Library reading rooms under the terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Legislation.

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