The Archive of Tomorrow was a project funded by the Wellcome Trust to explore and preserve online information and misinformation about health and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Started in February 2022, the project ran for 14 months and preserved over 3500 websites, blogs, and feeds relating to health, both official and unofficial. These now form the 'Talking about Health' collection within the UK Web Archive, giving researchers and members of the public access to a wide representation of diverse online sources.
About the UK Web Archive
The UK Web Archive is a partnership of UK legal deposit libraries. Legal deposit libraries are entitled by law to collect anything published in the UK. The UK Web Archive collects and preserves UK-related web content, including large-scale automated capture, curated collections, and web pages nominated by a range of partners and stakeholders.
This project's aim was to increase awareness and usage of archived websites and to realise the value of these collections for research and public benefit more fully.
The crisis of information
The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to a global crisis of information and misinformation which has played out mostly online.
Government and medical websites have changed on a daily basis as new information emerges. There has been a massive proliferation of comment on social media and other online platforms about the virus and other health issues.
Clinical advice, data and scientific evidence have been contested, revised, used and misused with dramatic and sometimes tragic consequences. Yet the digital record of this has been fragile and difficult to access.
One of the project's objectives was to ethically capture and describe online conversations and different viewpoints for posterity. Other aspects included:
- exploring best practice in preserving and describing information published on the web,
- building up a research network across a range of disciplines,
- and supporting different research approaches including digital scholarship.
The 'Talking About Health' collection has been used to experiment with options for metadata, computational analysis, ethics, and rights issues. Recommendations have been made on how web archives can be more representative, inclusive, and open for health research.
Libraries and archives have always striven to collect the stories of our times, and this has been more important than ever when information is literally a matter of life and death. As we saved websites and other online information in this project, we sought to ensure a wide representation of diverse and otherwise uncollected sources.
Alongside the National Library of Scotland, project partners included Cambridge University Library, Edinburgh University Library and Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, with key roles based at all institutions that formed a network of expertise and investigation.
The British Library has played a key supporting role in the project. The wider project network included researchers from different disciplines and organisations including the Internet Archive, Digital Preservation Coalition, National Archives, National Records of Scotland and the Alan Turing Institute.
Project technical team
- Alice Austin, Web Archivist, University of Edinburgh.
- Eddie Boyle, Research Data Engineer, National Library of Scotland.
- Cui Cui, Web Archivist, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
- Mark Simon Haydn, Metadata Analyst, National Library of Scotland.
- Jasmine Hide, Rights Officer, National Library of Scotland.
- Agnieszka Kurzeja, Metadata Co-ordinator, University of Cambridge.
- Eilidh MacGlone, Web Archivist, National Library of Scotland.
- Leontine Talboom, Web Archivist, University of Cambridge.
Project steering group
- Joe Marshall, Project Owner, Associate Director of Collections Management, National Library of Scotland.
- Sarah Ames, Digital Scholarship Librarian, National Library of Scotland.
- Nicola Bingham, Lead Curator, Web Archives, British Library.
- Carol Campbell, Head of Metadata, National Library of Scotland.
- Antonia Clark, Development Officer, National Library of Scotland.
- Lucy Clement, Head of Development, National Library of Scotland.
- Paul Cunnae, Head of Acquisitions and Descriptions, National Library of Scotland.
- Mary Garner, Project Manager, National Library of Scotland.
- Gill Hamilton, Interim Associate Director of Digital, National Library of Scotland.
- Graeme Hawley, Head of General Collections, National Library of Scotland.
- Matthew Neely, Senior Archivist, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
- Caylin Smith, Head of Digital Preservation, University of Cambridge.
- Sara Thomson, Digital Archivist, University of Edinburgh.
- Susan Thomas, Head of Archives and Modern Manuscripts, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Project Advisory Board
- Linda Arnold-Stratford, Head of Liaison and Governance for the Legal Deposit Libraries.
- Jefferson Bailey, Internet Archive.
- Caroline Bassett, Cambridge University.
- Ian Cooke, British Library.
- Alexandra Eveleigh, Wellcome.
- Chris Hassan, Wellcome.
- Patricia Kingori, University of Oxford.
- Graham Mackenzie, NHS Lothian.
- Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo.
- Gareth Millward, University of Southern Denmark.
- Alex Mold, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
- Jessica Ogden, Digital Futures Institute, University of Bristol.
- Pippa Powell, European Lung Foundation.
- Garth Stewart, National Records of Scotland.
- Tom Storrar, National Archives.
- Melissa Terras, University of Edinburgh.
- Paul Wheatley, Digital Preservation Coalition.
- Jane Winters, School of Advanced Studies, University of London.
You can follow the project on the UK Web Archive Discourse page.
We welcome expressions of interest. Email the Archive of Tomorrow project