By Amanda Greenwood, Anna Radkowski-Lee Graduate Assistant for Web Archives

Have you ever wondered what websites you frequent may have looked like when they were first created? Thanks to web-archiving technologies such as Archive-It and the Wayback Machine, this is a current reality. As the Anna Radkowski-Lee Graduate Assistant for Web Archives for the 2020-2021 academic year, I am excited to have the opportunity to spend time in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives, learning about and working with these incredible, yet complex, technologies. 

Working towards my Master of Science in Information Science with a focus on Archives and Records Administration, my career goal is to work in an archives or special collections department. While fascinated with the preservation of rare books and manuscripts, I have always been interested in how archivists use new digital technologies. As digitization and digital preservation has become an integral area of library and information science, the capturing and preserving of web content has become just as critical. 

Amanda Greenwood, Anna Radkowski-Lee Graduate Assistant for Web Archives

Since October 2020, I have been working on archiving the collections in the University at Albany Web Archive. While the university is mandated by New York State to preserve parts of the University at Albany website, there are other websites that are within our scope of collection, such as ones related to politics, education, and social issues in New York State. Through these websites, I have been learning how to web crawl using tools such as Archive-it and Conifer. These tools can be quite difficult to learn and navigate because they require a large amount of trial and error to get results. 

My supervisor, Greg Wiedeman, once told me that web crawling is a “Sisyphean exercise” because web archivists have to constantly manage the scoping rules and parameters of the crawls in order to capture the website so that it can be accessed by users. I think that perfectly describes the complexity of web crawling.

Even though scoping and re-running test crawls takes up most of my weekly work, I always appreciate the new projects I am given an opportunity to work on. Often, clients will approach our department and ask us to archive their website before they lose access to it, so I am sometimes faced with the challenge of having to finish new projects quickly before access to the website is denied. In addition, faculty will need their websites archived, so we work with the wonderful staff at the Scholars Archive in order to add scholarly materials to their open access repository. As a final project in May, I will create and present a report that will help my department decide about appraisal priorities.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to learn this unique skill in web archiving, and I am thankful to have the incredible direction and support of Greg as a department mentor. I am also appreciative of everyone that I have met in the department of Special Collections & Archives because they have been most welcoming and helpful during the duration of my assistantship.

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