150+ cultural heritage organizations preserving 75 terabytes of web-based community heritage data
Local history archives have long served as vital resources for preserving the stories of communities. With many records now published on the web, the ability to preserve collections of online newspapers, local blogs, civic websites, social media, and other web content is an increasingly important skill for librarians and other cultural heritage professionals wishing to fulfill their roles as information custodians and community anchors. Locally-focused web archiving can also play an important part in diversifying the historic record and preserving the voices of those often excluded from the archive.
Community Webs began in 2017 as an Institute of Museum and Library Services and Internet Archive funded program of education, training, and services designed to enable public libraries to build collections of historically-valuable, web published materials documenting their local communities. In 2020, with the support of the Mellon Foundation, Community Webs expanded to welcome more public libraries from across the United States and, the following year, the Internet Archive opened Community Webs to applicants from cultural heritage organizations from Canada and across the globe.
More than 150 public libraries and other cultural heritage organizations have joined Community Webs since its launch. These organizations have collectively archived over 100 terabytes of web-based community heritage materials, including more than 800 collections documenting the lives of local citizens, marginalized voices, and groups often absent from the historic record. The program and its participants have also created open educational resources relating to web archiving, digital preservation, community archiving, and collection development, explored new forms of local engagement and partnerships through public programming and crowdsourcing, and had their digital collections used by scholars and in computational research work.
Community Webs and its members have redefined the role of cultural heritage organizations in preserving the lives and activities of their communities. The program has also affected a significant shift in the field of web archiving by empowering community-focused memory organizations to take an increasingly prominent place in a landscape once monopolized by large institutions.
Would you like to join us? Check out our Call for Applications: