By Helena Byrne, Curator of Web Archives at the British Library
Halloween and the UK Web Archive
From the start of October all the shops and supermarkets were filling up with Halloween costumes, decorations and lots of fun sized confectionery that are easy to share with some of the trick-o-treaters who might be knocking on your door. It is not clear yet how the coronavirus pandemic will impact any of the informal celebrations that take place every year. No doubt the UK Web Archive crawlers are picking up lots of Halloween and 5th of November themed webpages as part of the 2020 Domain Crawl.
Halloween in the UK is often perceived to be a cultural import from North America. A YouGov poll in 2019 showed that only 30% of people surveyed were planning to celebrate the occasion. This Shine graph shows how the popularity of the term on the archived .uk web has increased in popularity over time.
Click on a point in the graph to see a sample of how the phrase is used.
The tradition of Halloween actually goes back centuries and was widely celebrated by people in Ireland, Britain and northern France. During pagan times, the 1st of November was officially the start of winter, this season was associated with death as the crops, wildlife and many people died due to the cold and lack of sunlight during this period. Because of this day’s association with death, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth on the night of the 31st October. It was during the Reformation that the tradition of celebrating Halloween died out in Britain, especially in England.
The 5th of November
The commemoration on the 5th of November goes by many names, traditionally it was Guy Fawkes Night but is sometimes referred to as Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night. But there seems to be some regional differences in what term is used and how the night is celebrated.
What do you call this commemoration?
Get creative with Halloween at the British Library
Our Assistant Web Archivist, Carlos Lelkes-Rarugal, has designed some short animated videos using recordings from the British Library Sound Archive and images from the Ghosts & Ghoulish Scenes, British Library Flickr. See these on the UK Web Archive, Digital Scholarship and the Sound Archive’s Wildlife Department Twitter accounts.
This and other sounds can be experienced in the Sound Archive at the British Library which has over 260,000 wildlife sound recordings from all over the world. You can hear a selection of some of these recordings on the British Library, Sound & Vision blog, the latest blog post Going Batty for Halloween, gives an overview of the history of bats and Halloween.
The Digital Scholarship’s latest blog post, Mind Your Paws and Claws, encourages you to use these images and sounds for various creative projects. The Ghosts & Ghoulish Scenes Flickr Album was previously used in the Gothic Off the Map competition.
Get involved with preserving the UK web
The UK Web Archive aims to archive, preserve and give access to the historic UK web space. We endeavour to include important aspects of British culture and events that shape society.
Anyone can suggest UK websites to be included in the UK Web Archive by filling in our nominations form: www.webarchive.org.uk/nominate
We have a Festivals collection, but are there any local Halloween or 5th of November events near you that haven’t been added yet? Equally, if these events have now been cancelled, we would like to add some of these online cancellation notifications to our collection Coronavirus (COVID-19) UK. Browse through what we have so far and please nominate more content!