UK Web Archive blog

38 posts categorized "Contemporary Britain"

15 December 2021

How a web designed for the visually impaired is a better web for everyone

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, The British Library

This Disability History Month, staff from across the British Library have collaborated on a series of blog posts to highlight stories of disability and disabled people in the Library’s collections. Each week a curator will showcase an item from the collections and present it alongside commentary from a member of the British Library’s Disability Support Network. These selections are a snapshot insight into the Library’s holdings of disability stories, and we invite readers to use these as a starting point to explore the collections further and share your findings with us.

The web, created over 30 years ago, has revolutionised the world of information sharing but it has not always been an ideal space for all users and in particular those who are visually impaired. By regularly capturing copies of websites over time, Web Archives can document changes and see the progress on accessibility.

During the 1990s and early 2000s it was not unusual for websites to use small, fixed type, poor colour contrast, animations, dense text and many other techniques that can make it harder to read or view. For example, this was the first website I helped maintain back in 1999 when I had just started in the Court Service web team. Not too bad for the time, it does illustrate in some ways how web design and accessibility could look like over 20 years ago.

Court Service website 1999

The Court Service (then part of the Lord Chancellor’s Dept) website in 1999, captured by the UK Government Web Archive. 

Contrast the 1999 Court Service website with the thoroughly modern and accessible GOV.UK website whose team work extremely hard to make it as easy to view and use as possible.

Accessibility-govUK2021

Gov.UK archived website from 2021

Improvements
Whilst far from perfect, the modern web is a much better place now for visually impaired people but how did this change come about?

In 1995, just as the web was gaining in popularity, the landmark ‘Disability Discrimination and Equality Act’ came into force in the UK (Note: this legislation has had many subsequent updates since then). At a similar time the ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)’ were being developed. Also, charities such as the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) have been huge champions for online accessibility, even offering a badge of approval to compliant sites.

Legislation, guidance and campaigning have all helped to move web designers and website owners into thinking about all their audience and improving standards.

Principles of web accessibility
At a basic level, websites should be available to everyone and with just a few principles in place, this is entirely achievable. Text should be made so that the user can scale the font size, images should have descriptive captions and alternative text. Videos and multimedia should have subtitles or captions. If websites are structured correctly they allow screen readers to ‘speak’ the website to the user. In 2021, all websites should follow these and several other recommendations in order to be compliant. Read the full WCAG guidance for more.

Another example could be RNIB’s own website that has undergone considerable change and improvement over the years. See these archived websites from 2008 and 2021.

RNIB website 2008

RNIB archived website from 2008 

RNIB website 2021

RNIB archived website from 2021

A better web for everyone!
Making the web accessible for visually impaired people is something that benefits everyone. Bigger text with more ‘white space’ and high colour contrast on a page makes much easier (and quicker) reading. Many people today with no visual impairment use captions and subtitles on videos they watch, either to keep the volume low (or off) or it just makes things easier to understand.

From the website owners point of view, why would anyone want to discourage people using their website? Reading their news, latest blog or educational resource or if they are a business, buying their products or services.

Making an accessible web is a WIN-WIN for us all and we should be grateful for the hard work of those who got us where we are today and who are still striving for improvements.

Read more information on accessibility in the early web.


Reflection from British Library staff Disability Support Network member
I completely agree with Jason, making websites, or anything in life, accessible for people with impairments and disabilities, does benefit everyone. Very often actions taken to make something accessible for one kind of disability actually benefits many others. For example many of the website guidelines will benefit those with neurodiverse differences as well as visual impairments. Lots more can still be done to make web content accessible. Particularly with a growing increase of information shared via social media as opposed to a website. To make things accessible often just takes some time, not everything has a financial implication. An example being, taking the time to write Alt Text and Image Descriptions.

I often find that design and aesthetics are still a barrier to making things accessible. If the outcome of making something accessible doesn’t fit in with the aesthetics and design branding of an organisation, they often won’t bother making the effort to make it accessible. Making information accessible doesn’t have to compromise on design, people just need to change their perceptions and their approach, and make adaptations.

Sarah

12 November 2021

Welsh language websites within the UK Web Archive

By Aled Betts, Acquisitions Librarian and Web Archivist, National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales have been collecting Welsh language websites to archive for the UK Web Archive since the 2004. In 2018, we decided to collate these websites and include them in a dedicated Collection in order to make it more accessible to researchers.

Significantly, 2018 was an important milestone for the Welsh language as it was 25 years since the passing of the Welsh Language Act in 1993 which gives effect to the principle that in the conduct of public business in Wales, the English and Welsh languages should be treated ‘on the basis of equality’. It was also 10 years since the passing of Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 giving the Welsh language official status in Wales. In terms of Government and Public Bodies, the following principle that the Welsh language will not be treated less favourably than English was observed. As a result, the Welsh language is clearly visible and widespread on the web as many websites by law are now bilingual.

However, the aim of the Welsh Language Collection was not simply to list websites that were published through the medium of Welsh. The focus was more on those websites and organisations whose aim was to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language in all walks of life. The Collection also covers websites relating to Welsh language communities, online and physical, where Welsh is the medium of communication. It also looks at bodies that promote Welsh umbrella organisations as well as groups that campaign and lobby for the language. Furthermore, we have been collecting Welsh language websites since 2004, therefore we were able to showcase many of these websites and show how much they had changed over the last 17 years!

Here is just a small sample of the type of websites covered in the Welsh Language Collection.

Advocacy, campaigning and lobbying
Much of the work promoting the Welsh language across Wales is done by Mentrau Iaith (English: Language Initiatives). These are community-based organisations that operate to raise the profile of the Welsh language in a specific area. The percentage of Welsh speakers vary considerably. For instance, the highest percentages of Welsh speakers can be found in Gwynedd (64%) and the lowest is Blaenau Gwent (8%) therefore the challenges in each area differ. In order to capture this important work, we also archived their twitter feeds. These feeds are showing us how these initiatives are promoting the Welsh language in their respective areas. Furthermore, the Menter Iaith (English: Language initiative) umbrella body website is one the earliest sites we captured, a site we first archived in 2006.

Welsh-language-02

Mentrau Iaith (English: Language initative) website in 2021

Mentrau Iaith website

Mentrau Iaith (English: Language initative) website in 2006 

Over the last 2 decades, we have seen bodies and organisations evolve, grow and some disappear. A statutory body set up under the Welsh Language Act 1993 was Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (English: Welsh Language Board). The board was responsible for administering the Welsh Language Act and for seeing that public bodies in Wales kept to its terms. The Welsh Language Board was abolished in 2012 and following the passing of the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure, powers were transferred to the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Commissioner, a new body promoting and facilitating the use of the Welsh language. Fortunately, we have captured this transfer of power as we have been archiving the Welsh Language Board website since 2008 and the Welsh Language Commissioner since 2012, in both cases, open access has been granted.

Welsh-language-03

Bwrdd yr iaith Gymraeg/ (English: Welsh Language Board) website in 2008

Welsh-language-04

Comisiynydd y Gymraeg (English: Welsh Language Commissioner) website in 2021

Arts and Culture
The Welsh language has a lively and vibrant arts, music and literature scene. This is no more exemplified by the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol (English: National Eisteddfod) and Urdd Gobaith Cymru, the Welsh language national voluntary youth organisation, who run the Urdd Eisteddfod, arguably Europe's largest youth festival. Both sites are archived since early 2000’s. The National Eisteddfod is held in different locations each year alternating between north and south Wales therefore naturally the content changes every year. The first National Eisteddfod we archived was Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Casnewydd a’r Cylch (English: National Eisteddfod of Wales Newport and surrounding area) in 2004 and our first Urdd National Eisteddfod was Eisteddfod yr Urdd Sir Ddinbych (English: Urdd Eisteddfod Denbighshire) in 2006! Again, open access granted, therefore available to view anywhere.

Welsh-language-05

The Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru Casnewydd a’r Cylch (English: National Eisteddfod of Wales Newport and surrounding area) 2004

Welsh-language-06

Urdd Eisteddfod Denbighshire 2006

Alongside the all-important bodies, we archive a plethora of arts and culture websites, from record labels to folk groups, theatrical bodies, local eisteddfodau and Welsh language festivals. Same goes for the buoyant Welsh literature and publishing scene, close to a hundred websites listed within our ‘literature and publishing sub-section.

Education and Learning
An all-important sub-section is Education and learning. Here two types of websites dominate. One is education and learning through the medium of Welsh. Here, Welsh-medium education, including Mudiad Meithrin (English: Nursery Movement), formed in 1971, to nurture early-years Welsh speakers to Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (English: Welsh National College), formed in 2011, to develop Welsh-language courses and resources for Higher Education students are archived.

Welsh-language-07

Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (English: Welsh National College) website in 2011

Secondly, the web has seen an explosion of language learning websites globally. This is also apparent in the Welsh language allowing those wishing to learn a second language to do so through the internet.

Welsh-language-08

SaySomethinginWelsh website in 2011

As of 2021, the collection has between 500 and 600 websites and is a growing collection. However, a significant collection, as many websites were collected since the early days of web archiving in 2004. The principle of equality had been an underlying theme in Welsh language discourse and legislation was passed to meet this demand. The Collection explores how promoting and supporting the Welsh language has changed over the past 20 years but also shows how legislation has helped shape this change.

19 October 2021

Clouds and blackberries: how web archives can help us to track the changing meaning of words

By Dr Barbara McGillivray (Turing Fellow), Pierpaolo Basile (Assistant Professor in Computer Science, University of Bari), Dr Marya Bazzi (Turing Fellow) and  Dr Jenny Basford, Jason Webber (British Library)

NOTE: This a re-blog from the Alan Turing Institute, with permission.

The meaning of words changes all the time. Think of the word ‘blackberry’, for example, which has been used for centuries to refer to a fruit. In 1999, a new brand of mobile devices was launched with the name BlackBerry. Suddenly, there was a new way of using this old word. ‘Cloud’ is another example of a well-established word whose association with ‘cloud computing’ only emerged in the past couple of decades. Linguists call this phenomenon ‘semantic change’ and have studied its complex mechanisms for a long time. What has changed in recent years is that we now have access to huge collections of data which can be mined to find these changes automatically. Web archives are a great example of such collections, because they contain a record of the changing content of web pages.

But how can we automatically detect in a huge web archive when a word has changed its meaning? A common strategy is to build geometric representations of words called word embeddings. Word embeddings use lots of data about the context in which words are used so that similar words can be clustered together. We can then do operations on these embeddings, for example to find the words that are closest (and most similar in meaning) to a given word. It’s a useful technique, but building embeddings takes a lot of computing power. Having access to pre-trained embeddings can therefore make a big difference, enabling those in the scientific community without sufficient computational resources to participate in this research.

A team of researchers from The Alan Turing Institute and the Universities of Bari, Oxford and Warwick, in collaboration with the UK Web Archive team based at the British Library, has now released DUKweb, a set of large-scale resources that make pre-trained word embeddings freely available. Described in this article, DUKweb was created from the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (1996-2013), a collection of all .uk websites archived by the Internet Archive between 1996 and 2013. (This dataset is held and maintained by the UK Web Archive, which has been collecting websites since 2005, initially on a selective basis and since 2013 at a whole domain level.) DUKweb contains 1.3 billion word occurrences and two types of word embeddings for each year of the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset. The size of DUKweb is 330GB.

Researchers can use DUKweb to study semantic change in English between 1996 and 2013, looking at, for instance, the effects of the growth of the internet and social media on word meanings. For example, if the word ‘blackberry’ is used mostly to refer to fruits in 1996 and to mobile phones in 2000, the 1996 embedding for this word will be quite different from its 2000 embedding. In this way, we can find words that may have changed meaning in this time period. The figure below (from Tsakalidis et al., 2019) shows four words whose contexts of use have changed in the last couple of decades: ‘blackberry’, ‘cloud’, ‘eta’ and ‘follow’. The bars indicate words most similar to these four words in 2000 (red bars) and in 2013 (blue bars). The scale along the bottom gives a measure of the change.

figure 02 - analysis - clouds, blackberries

The resources that underpin DUKweb are hosted on the British Library’s research repository, and are available for anyone in the world to download, reuse and repurpose for their own projects. This repository is part of the BL’s Shared Research Repository for cultural heritage organisations, which brings together the research outputs produced by participating institutions, and makes them discoverable to anybody with an internet connection. Providing a stable, dedicated location to hold heritage datasets in order to share them with a wider research community has been one of the key drivers in the implementation and development of this repository service. We are grateful to the British Library’s Repository Services team for supporting this collaboration between the UK Web Archive team and the Turing by making the content for DUKweb available.

Read the paper: DUKweb: diachronic word representations from the UK Web Archive corpus

 

04 October 2021

UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection

By Andrea Deri, Cataloguer, Lead Curator of UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection; Nicola Bingham, Lead Curator, Web Archives; Eilidh MacGlone, Web Archivist; Trevor Thomson, General Collections Assistant (Collection Development) National Library of Scotland


What public climate and sustainability related UK websites would you preserve for future research?

What public UK websites tell the story of climate change actions in your areas of living, travelling, working, study and passions?

Nominate these websites to the UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection. You can nominate as many websites or webpages as you feel are relevant.

Desert landscape - Photo by '_Marion'
Photo by '_Marion'

About the Climate Change Collection
The UK Web Archive Climate Change Collection is not only an archive of past digital content preserved for future research. It is also a live, dynamic, growing resource for decisions, research and learning today.  

Much of the debate around climate change is taking place on the Web and is, therefore, highly ephemeral, meaning it is important to capture it now, in real time. The UK Web Archive Climate Change collection does just that: captures climate related public UK websites and archives them regularly according to the frequency of updates on the website. 

What is the UK Web Archive?
The UK Web Archive (UKWA) is a collaboration of the six UK legal deposit libraries working together to preserve websites for future generations. The Climate Change collection is one of over hundred curated collections of the UK Web Archive. Given the multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary nature of the climate crisis, researchers may also find several other UKWA collections relevant for studying climate change, for example, the News Sites, Science Collection, British Countryside, Energy, Local History Societies, District Councils, Political Action and Communication, Brexit, among others.  

While all the UK legal deposit libraries contribute subject expertise to the Climate Change collection’s development, to make it more representative we solicit nominations as widely as possible. To this end we have developed a simple form, which allows anyone to nominate public websites or web pages published in the UK. If you would like to nominate a website for the UK Web Archive Climate Change collection add the title, URL and brief description of the website or webpage. 

UKWA Climate change nomination-form

If you would like us to acknowledge your nomination, enter  your name and email address.

What can UKWA archive?
Before you nominate, you might want to check your nomination for scope and duplication. The UK Web Archive cannot archive sound and video platforms in which the audio and video content dominate. Websites that require personal log-in details, for example Facebook sites, or private intranets, emails, personal data on social networking sites or websites only allowable to restricted groups. 

What happens to my nomination?
All nominations are checked manually by a curator. If the website meets the requirements of non-print legal deposit, it is added to the collection by library staff without any prejudice regarding content. We want to make the climate change collection representative of diverse perspectives. The annotation process includes assigning broad subject labels, crawl frequency (the frequency of archiving), and a licencing request for making historical pages public. While all UKWA Climate Change collection titles are listed online, archived versions of the websites can be accessed only in legal deposit libraries’ reading rooms unless licenced.  

 Why is this collection important?
The UKWA Climate Change collection serves several functions, three being particularly important: 

  1. Supports research - Supports research related to climate change issues
  2. Raises awareness & curiosity - Makes readers aware of and curious about the diversity of climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation activities across scale
  3. Engages in action - Inspires readers to take action including nominating websites for future preservation and by doing so contributing to the knowledge base of climate change

By inviting nominations, the UKWA Climate Change collection draws on a citizen science approach, in other words, engages members of the public in academic research and developing the collection. The integration of library science and citizen science acknowledges the complementary values of diverse forms of knowledge, including diverse forms of local knowledge. With their nominations contributors can diversify existing sub-collections and initiate the creation of new sub-collections. For example, a new sub-collection has just recently been suggested dedicated to climate change & sustainability strategies of UK galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM sector).  

History of the Collection
The collection was established when The Paris Agreement was negotiated at the UNFCCC COP21, in 2015. The acceleration of the climate crises, the exponential growth of digital climate content publishing and the demand for innovations that can be inspired by a diversity of knowledge, local, practical, technical and academic, called for an upgrade. The Climate Change collection is an important source of knowledge both in preparation for the UNFCCC COP26 conference in Glasgow

Websites and webpages archived over time tell the stories how individuals and organisations have been making sense of and responding to the climate crises. We encourage you to nominate the public websites that tell the stories of your engagement with the changing climate and websites you want to preserve for future generations. 

Further recommended sources 

09 September 2021

UK Communities online - Enthusiasts and Hobbyists

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, The British Library

Over the next few months we will be looking at some of the communities in the UK and how they have used the web. Look out for #UKCommunitiesOnline on twitter.

Whatever your hobby or interest, however obscure or niche, the web has allowed people to share their passions and meet (virtually or in real life) likeminded folk. Let's look at just a few items from the fantastic 'Online Enthusiast' collection.

The English Tiddlywinks Association

Blitz, gromp and squidger - just a few of the fabulous terms used in the very serious (but also very fun) game of Tiddlywinks. 

English tiddlywinks assoc

Archived website from 2014.

British Trams Online

There may not be as many tram services in the UK as there once was but here is THE definitive guide to trams currently in service across the UK.

British trams online archived website

Archived website from 2015.

Morris Dancing - 'Open Morris'

The long held tradition of 'Morris Dancing'. A form of this folk dancing has been around since the late middle ages and is still a popular pastime.

Open morris website in the UK web Archive

Archived page from 2014.

Synth DIY Wiki

Music is a huge part of many people's lives but not many make their own instruments. From the website: "This is a budding wiki for learning and sharing knowledge about making, modifying, or repairing electronic musical instruments and related equipment yourself."

Synth diy website

Archived page from 2014.

Telegraph Pole Society

"These much ignored pieces of rural and urban furniture finally have a website of their own."

Telegraph pole society in the UK Web Archive

Archived page from 2020.

Call out!

Is your hobby, interest or pastime represented online? Have you made a website about your spare time passion? You can nominate ANY UK website here: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate

09 June 2021

Alternative Sports in the UK Web Archive - Part 1

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, British Library

Welcome to the UK Web Archive 'Summer of Sport' season! Over the next few months we will show the many ways that sport is represented in the web archive.

Let's start with some of the more quirky and unusual 'sports' played in the UK:

Cheese Rolling Championship

Brave competitors chase a wheel of cheese down the terrifyingly steep Cooper's hill (1 in 1 in places) in Gloucestershire. First one to the bottom is the winner! The prize is a 7-8lb wheel of Double Gloucester cheese!

Cheese Rolling Championship website

The official Cheese Rolling Championship website in 2008.

The Chap Olympiad

What sport can there be for the well dressed 'person-about-town'? The 'Chap Olympiad' of course.

"A series of challenges ensue ranging from the frantic and frenetic to the barely mobile. The Tea Pursuit and Umbrella Jousting (where participants clamber aboard a bike holding an umbrella and a briefcase) see what is possibly the first use of Boris bikes as part of a sporting contest. The Tug Of Hair pits two teams against each other, pulling on a twenty feet long moustache until one team topples over. In Well-Dressage, individuals mount hobbyhorses and prance around to music while Not Tennis is the epitome of anti-sport with two players invited to do anything but play tennis."

Chap olympiad - Londonist website

Photos of the Chap Olympiad from the Londonist website in 2016.

Bog Snorkeling

If an athlete is not afraid of a spot of mud, what better event than the Bog Snorkeling Championships! Competitors aim to complete two consecutive lengths of a 60 yards (55 m) water-filled trench cut through a peat bog in the shortest time possible, wearing traditional snorkel, diving mask and flippers.

"Event rules state that no recognised swimming strokes are allowed at the event so it all comes down to honing down the perfect technique to power through the murky water."

Bog snorkling - Visit Wales Blog

Bog Snorkeling on the Visit Wales website from April 2013

World Conker Championships

Threading a piece of string through a horse chestnut seed and hitting another one has been a long standing feature of school playgrounds. Conkers, however, is a serious business and over a thousand are used in each World Championship contest!

World conker championships

Photo of the World Conker Championship 2016.

BBC News article on the World Conker Championship in 2004.

Summary
We aim to capture all aspects of UK life including the sporting life. If you have a UK sport website that you would like to suggest for the web archive, nominate it here.

#WebArchiveSummerOfSport

 

18 May 2021

International Museums Day 2021

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, British Library

To celebrate both International Museums Day and the re-opening of many of the museums themselves (following a period of lockdown in the UK), this post aims to show just some of the cultural organisation websites that we have in the web archive.

National Museums
The UK has some of the most famous museums in the world, few more so than the Victoria and Albert Museum. The UK Web Archive has been collecting the V&A website since 2008. See how the website itself has changed and remind yourself of the many wonderful exhibitions that have been shown in that time.

V&A website 2008

Our colleagues at the UK Government Web Archive, based at the National Archives, keep copies of the National Museums' websites. See the Natural History Museum website from 2004. I actually worked on the web team at the NHM at this time and added many of the elements on view here.

NHM Website 2004

Museums
The UK is rich with many hundreds of fantastic museums covering every aspect of life and history. From Witchcraft to lawnmowers and even pencils. Here are some other examples that we are able to publicly display:

The Cinema Museum (copy from 2010) is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the multiplex.

The Cinema Museum website 2010

The Hunterian Museum (copy from 2013), part of the University of Glasgow, and founded in 1807 it is Scotland's oldest public museum and home to one of the largest collections outside the National Museums. 

Huntarian Museum website

Local Authorities do amazing work supporting the local museums across the UK. Here is one example, Wrexham Museum (copy from 2013) in Wales.

Wrexham Museum website

Who archives the archives and collects the collectors?
We aim to archive the websites of all UK museums, whatever the size. If you know of a UK Museum website that we should add, contact us here: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate

 

 

 

25 January 2021

Rabbie Burns and the UK Web Archive

By Jason Webber, Web Archive Engagement Manager, British Library

Born on 25 January 1759, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns, sometimes known as the ‘National Bard’, the ‘Bard of Ayrshire’ and the ‘Ploughman Poet’, is rightly famous for his poetry in the Scots dialect. Burns’ legacy remains strong into the digital age and his work has been widely collected and can be seen in the UK Web Archive.

'Editing robert burns' website

This fantastic AHRC funded project ‘Editing Robert Burns’ aims to produce a multi-edition volume of his work. If you like a pun you can’t help but smile at ‘Daylight Rabbery: The Story of ‘Antique Smith’s’ Robert Burns Forgeries’.

Cutty Sark website

Did you know that famous Greenwich landmark, and former tea clipper, ‘Cutty Sark’ gets its name from the Robert Burns poem ‘Tam o’shanter’?

But Tam kend what was what fu' brawlie:
There was ae winsome wench and waulie,
That night enlisted in the core,
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore;
(For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonie boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty-sark, o' Paisley harn
That while a lassie she had worn,

Burns makes a more direct influence into the 21st century with ‘Rabbie Burns Saves the World: an 8 Bit Game’. Play the game here.

8 bit burns website game

Do you know any online Robert Burns resources? We would love to include any in the UK Web Archive. Nominate any UK website here: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate

Do also check out our ‘Poetry Zines and Journals’ collection.

Happy Burns Night!

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