Make a wish for the Web
Last month was the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web.
March 12, 1989, has been marked as the day the Web was born, when Tim Berners-Lee presented a technical paper to the CERN lab in Switzerland (they discovered the ‘God particle’ last year, that’s a whole other story) on an easy way to access files on linked computers.
Thus began a decade of painfully slow, occasionally embarrassing lurches along what was variously called the Information Superhighway, the Infobahn and the World Wide Wait as individuals and institutions grappled with their digital communication systems.
In the Archives and Records unit we can’t claim to have preserved every animated GIF, nor any vintage ‘Under construction’ signs, however, we do have the Australian Museum’s first electronic staff newsletter from February 2001 ‘thanks to the miracle of Hypertext’ as the editorial gushed. Managing your emails was done through the friendly-sounding 'Welcome to the Cobalt RaQ 2' intranet home page in 2003. We have design data about the Australian Museum website, launched in 1997, and work on themed sites for the ‘Thylacine Project’ and ‘Stories of the Dreamtime’ two years later.
We archive the Museum website in HP TRIM, one of our recordkeeping applications, whenever there is a major rebuild. From 2007, occasional snapshots of the Australian Museum website have been taken by the Wayback Machine, a not-for-profit Web archive founded in 1996, with the support of the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, which works to prevent the internet and other born-digital materials 'from disappearing into the past’.
Another global network of experts archiving the web for future generations is the IIPC (International Internet Preservation Consortium). Members include national, university and regional libraries and archives organizations from over 25 countries.
The National Library of Australia also pioneered a web archive in 1996 called PANDORA (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia) where online publications and websites are selected for documenting the cultural, social and intellectual life of Australians. The Atlas of Living Australia, a collaboration between the Australian Museum, CSIRO and other institutions has been preserved here, ensuring that the science of biodiversity burns brightly into the future.