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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 June, 2004, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Effort to save UK's web heritage
People surfing the internet
The archive is due to go live by January 2005
Millions of web pages covering all aspects of life in the UK are to be archived in a trial project led by the British Library

The two-year project will archive some 6,000 websites in an attempt to capture a flavour of British life online.

The organisers said that although the web had become the information tool of choice for many, little thought had been given to preserving websites.

The web archive is due to go live in January 2005.

'Unique insight'

According to the backers of the project, there is a real danger that valuable educational, cultural and scientific resources on the web could be lost in the future.

To counter this, six leading UK institutions have got together to work out how to best preserve British websites.

Inside the British Library
June 2004: Project starts
January 2005: Archive goes live
January 2006: Evaluation exercise
June 2006: Project ends, next steps to be determined
The UK Web Archiving Consortium includes the British Library, as well as the national libraries of Wales and Scotland.

The other members are the National Archives, the Wellcome Trust and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher and Further Education Councils.

Each member of the group will be responsible for archiving websites relevant to their interests. So the Welsh and Scottish national libraries would collect material reflecting the nations' history and culture.

"From government organisations posting travel advice to newlyweds putting their wedding photos online, websites provide a unique insight into the political and social world we live in today," said David Thomas from the National Archives.

Going public

The project will use a system called Pandora that was developed and tested by Australia for archiving Australian websites.

The system can tag, collect and prepare webpages automatically.

Around 750,000 has been set aside for shared software, hardware and ongoing technical costs, with each partner shouldering additional costs.

The aim is to make the web archive available to the public in January 2005. After the initial trial period of two years, the group will assess what next steps to take.

"Working with other project members, we can make real progress in developing complementary selection policies, exploring the best ways to collect and archive web materials and refining how we work together," said Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of The British Library.

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