Digital Preservation Under Threat?


Via dotgovwatch, it looks like the National Archives is discontinuing their Web Harvest program:

For the first time since the Internet began, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will not record a snapshot of Executive Branch websites at the end of a Presidential administration.

In the article, Coby Logen notes that the valuable work of non-profits like shouldn’t entirely supplant the work of the government. Federal agencies exist to protect the public interest, through a public mechanism. Our national government has a responsibility to protect and document its history. They are uniquely positioned to do so; no one else has both the reliable public mandate and the public accountability necessary for protecting historical documents.

Federal Web sites are historical documents, and NARA’s Web Harvest program should be enthusiastically supported. Digital records management should enable easier and cheaper preservation, and brings the promise of more meaningful disclosure and access to both current and historical documents.

The fact that digital preservation is done by others outside NARA isn’t an excuse for NARA to abdicate their responsibility, but an argument that they should be capable of fulfilling it.

As Members of Congress and Federal Agencies increasingly move their work online, robust digital archiving will only become more important, so we can understand how our government is performing its duties.