By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives at the British Library
Food is a subject that transcends culture, politics and leisure practices. Thus, food has always been a key part of the UK Web Archive (UKWA) since it was established in 2005.
Recipes, restaurant menus, food blogs, online reviews are just the start of food related online material that UKWA collects. Even protest and campaigning can be food related, for instance, this summer, footballer Marcus Rashford highlighted the issue of child poverty and the lack of access to food, especially during the school holidays.
For the last three years the British Library has been running a series of events around food. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Food Season moved online with a series of talks over the autumn period.
The Food Season celebrates the British Library’s extensive food-related collections and explores the politics, pleasures and history of food. UKWA, which is a partnership of the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries, including the British Library, also has an extensive collection of food related websites.
In 2017, the Food Archive collection was established. This collection covers the following topics:
- Cookery and Recipes
- Diet and Health
- Food Activism
- Food History
- Food Politics and Policy
- Food Production (including farming, manufacture, packaging, logistics, marketing and retail)
- Food Research
- Restaurants and Eating Out
There are currently 333 websites or web pages in this collection. Some of the websites selected include Eat Like a Girl, the Good Grub Club and the Veggies Catering Campaign. Why not have a browse through the collection and nominate your favourite UK published food sites or restaurant websites to be included in the collection? Anyone can nominate a website by following this link: https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/info/nominate
Even though there is a dedicated collection about food, it also features as a subsection in a number of other collections. ‘Food and Drink’ is a subsection in both the Festivals and Online Enthusiast Communities in the UK collections. In addition, individual food websites appear in several other collections. Websites related to food activism appear in both the Political Action and Communication collection as well as the (soccer) fan subsection of the Sport: Football Collection, as numerous supporters clubs have organised to support their local food banks.
Social media is a very popular way to share food and micro-reviews of eateries, however, this is often challenging for us to archive. At present, Twitter is the only social media platform that we archive on a regular basis but these captures are by no means comprehensive. We have experimented with other methods of archiving social media but this is on a selective basis.
How can you access these archived websites?
Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013, we can archive UK published websites but are only able to make the archived version available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. The UK Legal Deposit Libraries are the British Library, National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin Library.
Some of the websites in UKWA that have already had permission granted, these include the Cake Fest Edinburgh, the Lancashire Pork Pie Appreciation Society and the Food Research Collaboration. Some examples of websites that are onsite-only access include the Biscuit Appreciation Society, the UK Menu Archive and Fans Supporting Food Banks.
As the content of UKWA has mixed access, the message ‘Viewable only on Library premises’ will appear under the title of the website if you need to visit a Legal Deposit Library to view the content. If there is no message underneath then the archived version of the website should be available on your personal device.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the reading rooms were closed for a number of weeks but are starting to reopen. This blog post gives an overview of opening hours and how to book a visit at the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries:
We would especially like to see more food and drink nominations that reflect the multicultural nature of the UK and the many diaspora communities based here. Browse through what we have so far and please nominate more content here: