One of my graduate students, Shaun Reeser, is working to recover a long-lost government website for his MA public history project. Specifically, he will be working with some of the staff at the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives to recover the website of Ralph Munro, who served five terms as Washington Secretary of State from 1981 to 2001. Munro launched the first website for the Secretary of State's office in 1996, and the site was regularly updated until he left office in 2001. How to bring it back?
The Digital Archives has done something like this before, when we preserved the website of Washington Governor Gary Locke. In that 2005 effort the DA staff raced the clock to migrate Locke's website (an important public record) to the DA before it was taken down to make way for the website of Governor Gregoire. It was a pioneering project, but what Reeser will try to do is different. Munro's website was preserved in several versions at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. But simply pulling the information off the Wayback Machine is not sufficient for establishing archival authenticity. And the versions of the website at the Wayback Machine are often incomplete, lacking some of the original images, for instance, and full of broken links.
Right now Reeser is trying to hunt down the original digital files and to interview Munro and members of his staff. He is also studying other efforts to spider and preserve government websites as historic documents. Does anyone know of similar effort that we should study?
[Image: Oh come on, you know.]