5 Questions with Support Engineer Barbara Miller

June 21st, 2016

by the Archive-It Team

Support Engineer Barbara Miller joined the Archive-It team in March and has already contributed to important capture and replay improvements on behalf of our partners. To get to know the engineer behind some of the latest fixes and enhancements that help our partners to archive, we asked Barbara about her path to the Internet Archive, her travels, and her goals going forward.


What brought you to your new role with Archive-It?

I met the Internet Archive’s Director of Engineering, John Gonzalez, at OSCON last summer and he brought me in to set up some Python automation for the new CiviCRM donor database, a customer relationship management system that I’d worked with before with other non-profits.  When Archive-It was looking to grow, John wondered if I’d be interested in this position — Yes!


Anything that the partners and your new colleagues might be surprised to learn about you?

I had the opportunity to manage a student computer lab in Prague, located in what had been a room overlooking a cathedral, originally meant for nobility to view the services below. I had become fascinated with the idea of living in Prague after reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. After studying abroad, I made a connection here, a connection there, and ended up in Prague and stayed for more than two years.


Barbara Miller

At the source of the Elba River, in the Krkonoše Mountains, north of Prague.


Before working at Archive-It, what project are you most proud of?

That I found the courage to run away to Prague for a couple of years. I had a very strong desire to live abroad and travel a bit, and the moment I finished paying off my student loans, I decided I could take a break from being a regular adult and go live in Europe. It was very clear, living in Prague when I did, that there was so much change going on. Everything is always changing everywhere, but many changes affecting how Czechs live were very alive to me then. The arbitrariness of some of the details of our lives became very clear!


What is the most exciting aspect of web archiving? The most challenging?

There are lots of exciting things. Archive-It’s partners are great organizations and it’s a privilege to help archive their presence on the web. There’s also an enormous amount to learn. Without a long history in web archiving, there’s lots to learn, and all of the complexities of trying to archive the web 25 years after it was created are challenging. That’s the challenge, too—that there is so very much to learn. There’s not any one part that’s extra difficult, but the variety of websites and tools to archive them mean that I’m always learning.


What content from the web are you most passionate about archiving?

I hope to improve our tools to archive PDF document libraries. I know that some of those documents can be pretty dry, but at the same time, there are wonderful nuggets that someone, someday, may really enjoy finding. My personal research in archives, for instance, has mostly been genealogical. I had an uncle who traced my father’s family several generations back in Sweden. I’ve loved finding my ancestors in census records and 1930s phone directories and, more recently, helping my husband learn where his grandfather and great-grandfather lived, from listings in local phone directories.