The 1916 Easter Rising Web Archive
By Brendan Power, Digital Preservation Librarian, Library of Trinity College Dublin
At the recent conference, ‘Engaging with Web Archives: Opportunities, Challenges and Potentialities’, I presented a paper on a collaborative project between The Library of Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, the Bodleian Libraries, the University of Oxford, and the British Library. The project was carried out in 2015/16 and aimed to identify, collect, and preserve online resources related to the 1916 Easter Rising and the diverse ways it was commemorated and engaged with throughout its centenary in 2016. The Bodleian Libraries primarily collected UK websites under the provisions of the 2013 Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations (NPLD), while The Library of Trinity College Dublin focused on websites in the .ie domain. Since no legislation exists in the Republic of Ireland to ensure that the .ie domain is preserved, websites within the .ie domain were collected on a voluntary basis, that is, with the express formal permission of the website owners through the signing of a license agreement.
We aimed to reflect the variety of ways that the Irish and British states, cultural and educational institutions, as well as communities and individuals, approached the centenary events. These included official commemorative websites, the websites of museums, archives, heritage, cultural, and education institutions, along with traditional and alternative news media websites, blogs, and community websites. These resources will be invaluable primary resources to analyse how people interpreted and engaged with the Easter Rising in its centenary year. Researchers have reﬂected on the events organised on the ﬁftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966 and how these events were framed, the aspects that were championed, and the critical viewpoints denied expression. In a similar way, the records created throughout the centenary will be an essential resource for researchers in analysing how the generations of 2016 engaged with the legacy of the Easter Rising and the approaches, themes, and tone adopted.
The resulting web archive collection contains over 318 seeds, i.e. websites or sub-sections of these. Of these 318 websites, 112 (35%) were selected by The Library of Trinity College Dublin, 190 (60%) by the Bodleian Libraries, and 16 (5%) by curators at the British Library. 118 (37%) of the websites were from the .ie domain, 172 (54%) were from the .uk domain and 28 (9%) were associated with other areas, predominantly the USA. For all websites outside the UK (146), formal permission was sought from the website owners, resulting in 61 licenses to archive and make the archived copies publicly available. We received no response from 83 website owners, and 2 organisations agreed in principle to inclusion in the web archive but were not in a position to sign the license agreement required to allow us to archive the website as they could not affirm that they controlled the copyright of all the content that was to be archived. This meant an overall permissions rate of 42%, with the rate for websites in the .ie domain being even higher, at 51%.
Since the project was completed there have been many helpful reminders of the impact that such work has. This included one organisation that had created a website dedicated to an Easter Rising project which was no longer live on the web. The person that was responsible for the website had left the organisation and their replacement had no access to the materials that had been on the website. They had discovered an e-mail from me back in 2016 inviting them to participate in the web archive. Once they contacted me, I was able to direct them to the UK web archive and, as the organisation had signed the license agreement, they were able to access the archived website immediately from their office. This access had saved them both the time and staff resources that would have been expended in order to recreate some of the resources that were available on the archived website. It serves as an example of what embedding sustainability into a project can save in terms of time and staff resources and demonstrated the positive economic impact that organisations can derive by participation in cultural heritage initiatives such as web archives.
The co-curators of this collection have also previously published a paper on the collection in the academic journal, Internet Histories called Capturing commemoration: the 1916 Easter Rising web archive project.
You can watch Brendan Power’s presentation on the EWA YouTube Channel.