UK Web Archive blog

12 December 2022

Examining sports history through digitised & born digital resources

By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives, The British Library

The Irish Sporting Lives workshop and symposium took place at the Ulster University campus in Belfast from 11-12 November 2022. Day one took the form of a half day workshop aimed at  PhD/ECR researchers. It focused both on imparting knowledge about how to research historical figures and how to write sporting biographies. There were three sessions in the workshop:

  1. Margaret Roberts: It’s not what you research… it’s the way that you research it: that’s what gets results
  2. Helena Byrne: Examining sports history through digitised and born digital resources
  3. Turlough O’Riordan & Terry Clavin: Writing sporting lives

The slide deck and speaker notes on ‘Examining sports history through digitised and born digital resources’ are now available in the British Library Shared Research Repository under a CC BY 4.0 Attribution licence. 

The running time for this session was 70 minutes, therefore, many of the slides were discussed only briefly to allow more time for the activity phase of the workshop. The slides accompanying the notes can be edited by anyone to suit different session lengths. If more time is available, more time can be spent on exploring the different options discussed in the slides. As there was limited time in this workshop, no live demos were given during the presentation. The workshop focused on the subject of sport, but it could be adapted to suit any subject area. 

For more general web archiving training materials at a beginner level, please see the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) Training Materials page:  

The agenda for this session covered: 

  • Warm Up Activity
  • Digital Resources
  • Digitised Newspapers
  • Web Archives
  • Hackathon – Preserve Irish sporting heritage online. 
  • Wrap Up Activity

The session mostly focused on using web archives and only briefly covered digitised newspapers because this was covered in more depth in the first session led by Margaret Roberts.

What sport(s) do you study - word cloud

The warm-up activity collected anonymous information on what type of academic background the workshop participants were from, what their general level of awareness of web archives were, and in particular their awareness of the UK Web Archive. Participation in this activity was optional and not all participants responded to every question. Most of the participants came from a history background while others were from subjects including English Literature, Law, Sports Management or Independent Researchers who research a wide variety of sports. 

There were twelve responses to the question ‘Do you understand the difference between the terms digitised and born digital?’. Six respondents replied ‘yes’, while three said ‘no’ and three said ‘not sure’. In the ‘Digital Resources’ section of the presentation, the difference between these two terms was clarified during the presentation. More in depth user studies on web archive research conducted by Healy et. al. (2022) and Costea (2018) have highlighted that there is often confusion amongst researchers on the difference between a digital library/digital archive, a database and a web archive.

There were thirteen responses to the question ‘Have you ever used a web archive?’. Six respondents replied 'yes', while four said ’no’ and three said ‘not sure’. There were twelve responses to the question ‘Have you ever used the UK Web Archive?’. Four respondents replied ‘yes’, while six said ‘no’ and two said ‘not sure’.

DIY Web Archiving Strategies - logos of several web archiving companies

The session highlighted different ways that the researchers could use DIY web archiving techniques to mitigate against the impact link rot and content drift could have on their research. 

In the hackathon part of the session, participants were tasked to use some of the DIY web archiving strategies discussed to preserve the Irish sporting heritage. Participants could choose from  two options: 

  1. Add online content used in your research to the relevant web archives. 
  2. Review what web content has already been preserved from your area of study in the UK Web Archive Sports Collections. Then select online content from the web to nominate to the UK Web Archive.

Although there was approximately 25 minutes available at the end of this presentation for this activity, it would really need more time and if possible pre-workshop preparation to get maximum results for this activity. 

To wrap up this session, participants were asked two questions about how likely they were to use web archives in their research. Firstly, on a scale of 1 meaning very unlikely to 5 very likely, participants were asked ‘How likely are you to use a web archive as a resource for your research?’. Seven participants answered this question and the aggregated response was 4.4. Secondly, eight participants responded to the question ‘How likely are you to save content you view online in a web archive?’. This was also a scale question with 1 meaning very unlikely to 5 very likely, and the aggregated response was 3.4. 

Although the workshop elicited a small sample of results, they show that there is an interest in using web archives in academic research, not just as a reference source but as a way for managing online citations in the field of sports studies. It would be beneficial to the research community if those teaching research method classes could incorporate web archive training into their classes. The training materials published through the British Library Shared Research Repository can be adapted to suit any subject area.


Healy, S., Byrne, H., Schmid, K., Bingham, N., Holownia, O., Kurzmeier, M., & Jansma, R. (2022). Skills, Tools, and Knowledge Ecologies in Web Archive Research. WARCnet Special Report. Aarhus, Denmark: WARCnet,    

Costea, M.-D. (2018). Report on the Scholarly Use of Web Archives. Aarhus, Denmark: NetLab. Retrieved 2019-08-30, from