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 As well as historical content such as this, we must also ensure we are ready and able to curate current and future online discussions and websites surrounding LGBTQ+ lives as well.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.
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: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/nominate