When in Eternal Links to Time Thou Grow’st

November 14th, 2014

In Shakespeare’s well-known Sonnet 18 that begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” the narrator extolls the beauty of the poem’s subject and the ability of verse to forestall that beauty’s erosion by time. The final quatrain turns from celebrating the loveliness of its subject to the preservation bestowed through the power of poetic encapsulation:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.

The poem’s theme of permanence ties in nicely with the idea of the “eternal links” the Archive-It community is preserving from the web and making accessible into the future.  With the recent launch of the reports section of version 5.0 of the Archive-It web application, we thought it would be fun to dig through the archives being created by Archive-It partners and look at some of the older collections. Even within the eight years since Archive-It officially launched in 2006, the characteristics, aesthetics, and, obviously, extent of the web have changed significantly. Below are screenshots, links, and some collection details offering a side-by-side comparison of some of the earliest captures by Archive-It partners and their more recent versions in the archive.

The first example comes from one of Archive-It’s earliest users, the South Dakota State Archives and South Dakota State Library and features the homepage of the South Dakota State Library, as seen in January 2008 and in the most recent capture, from October 2014. Interestingly, the 2008 site is far more visually-oriented with icons and buttons whereas the 2014 site has a more columnar orientation and focuses on drop-down menus and other text-based navigational elements.

Educational institutions make up a notable portion of Archive-It users, building both thematic collections as well as documenting their own institutional history. The homepage of the University of Iowa’s School of Art and History, collected by the University of Iowa Libraries, represents a good example of the changes in web design, user experience, and overall graphical aesthetics over the last eight years. Below is the page in July 2008 and May 2014:

Many museums and other memory and cultural heritage organizations are represented amongst Archive-It partners and are building collections related to significant events, topics, and themes. The National September 11 Memorial Museum has been archiving hundreds of sites related to 9/11, many of which are illustrative of how much the web has changed in just the last few years, such as these images of the homepage of the 9/11 Environmental Action website, from August 2008 and October 2014:

Many sites within partner collections have undergone significant redesigns over the course of being archived, as this homepage from the K-9 Disaster Relief Foundation goes to show. Even if your homepage changes in overall content and style from September 2008 to July 2014, a picture of the adorable Nickie, the 120-pound Golden Retriever therapy dog should still remain prominently featured:

Archive-It partners are creating collections of content from across the web, which includes foreign language sites and the web presence of a diversity of communities. The University of Texas at Austin Libraries, Human Rights Documentation Initiative includes websites such as the Aswat Palestinian Gay Women initiative, whose homepage is shown below from both October 2009 and July 2014.

Community newspapers are another area that has experienced a great deal of change due to the advent of online content and digital media. The Minnesota Newspapers Online collection of the Minnesota Historical Society contains archived pages that show us how much even online newspapers have changed their appearance in just a few  years, as seen in these two captures of MinnPost.com from January 2010 and October 2014.

Though the above examples compare older pages to more recent versions within the archive, even viewing pages within a specific time slice of the archived web can illustrate the substantial growth in online content as the web expanded in the 2000s.. For instance,  this page from the Governor Timothy Kaine Administration Collection, 2006-2010 of the Library of Virgina shows how the website of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry went from a relatively bare, basic website with only three  sub-pages in February 2006 to a multilevel navigational structure with many more pages and including images, news items, and an RSS feed just four years later in January 2010.

Finally, having begun with Sonnet #18 of “the Bard of Avon” it seems appropriate to explore the Shakespeare Festivals and Theatrical Companies collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library which unearthed this gem from Shakespeare in Action’s “Sonnets by Kids” program featuring a 7-year old’s translation of Sonnet #18:

You’re a wonderful person…
When the seasons pass[,] you change.
Your heart will not fade because I write…
Your heart won’t die because you’ll live in the poem.

Words that will live on in the archive.

We plan on highlighting other interesting examples of the historical content being preserved by Archive-It partners in future blog posts.