About Web Archiving

Web archiving is the process of selecting, collecting, preserving, and providing access to web resources. Art librarians may engage in web archiving activities for myriad reasons, but especially rely on the practice when…

…the materials in their traditional collecting scope move from a print- to web-based publishing model. This may include web-based catalogues raisonné, artist and exhibition files, and related ephemera.

…they have a mandate to archive their own institutional records, which may be found on the web or even include their website(s). The online records of our organizations and their exhibits and events trace the history of art information and exhibition in the 21st century, and web archiving can preserve them for future reference.

…they want to document works, events, and conversations that exist online and/or over social media. As artists, scholars, patrons, and participants interact online, their conversations can form as important an historical record as artworks their published scholarship, and that record can be preserved and shared.

…they need to combat reference rot–the loss of access to materials that move or disappear from their present location on the web. As scholars increasingly depend upon and cite online resources in the course of their research, those resources must remain reliably accessible in spite of the tumultuous change inherent to the web.

Web archiving can be accomplished in a number of ways, but the process most typically relies upon a “web crawler,” such as search engines use, to index and deposit desired content into the internationally standardized Web ARChival (or WARC) file format, which may thereafter be rendered in its archival form by a replay tool in a web browser. For more information on the tools and services used to achieve this, and others suited to special collecting needs, see this site’s Resources section.

Here, for instance, is how the Web Archiving SIG’s formation announcement on arlisna.org looks as an archived web page, using the Internet Archive’s free “Save Page Now” feature: New Special Interest Group: Web Archiving.

About the SIG

The Web Archiving Special Interest Group was founded in 2016 with the mission to steward the community of art librarians currently engaged or interested in web archiving. It monitors and reports on trends, standards, and services in order to facilitate resource sharing and the technical development of web archiving tools of especial value to art libraries and museums. Topics of interest to this group include best practices for collection development, preservation, and access; software services; collaborative collecting; and the applications of web archiving as a strategy for managing ephemeral resources and institutional records.


Sumitra Duncan, Frick Art Reference Library

Andrea Puccio, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Library

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