What is the UK Web Archive?

There are millions of UK websites. They are constantly changing and even disappearing. Often they contain information that is only available online. Responding to the challenge of a potential "digital black hole" the UK Web Archive is there to safeguard as many of these websites as practical. Its purpose is to give permanent online access to key UK websites for future generations.

The UK Web Archive contains websites that publish research, that reflect the diversity of lives, interests and activities throughout the UK, and demonstrate web innovation. This includes "grey literature" sites: those that carry briefings, reports, policy statements, and other ephemeral but significant forms of information.

Because websites are revisited and snapshots ("instances") taken at regular intervals, readers can see how a website evolves over time. The archive is free to view, accessed directly from the Web itself and, since archiving began in 2004, has collected thousands of websites.

Since April 2013 the British Library has begun to archive the whole of the UK web domain, under the terms of the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013. This is in partnership with the other five legal deposit libraries for the UK: the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and the library of Trinity College Dublin. Access to the whole legal deposit web archive will be possible only on premises controlled by one of the six legal deposit libraries. However, the UK Web Archive team will seek additional permissions from the owners of a small selected group of sites for offsite access through this site.

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Who is the UK Web Archive for?

All are welcome to use the UK Web Archive—and to nominate sites that are not yet in the collections.

The UK Web Archive is designed to appeal to users across a wide spectrum of interest and knowledge: the general reader, the teacher, the journalist, the policy maker, the academic and personal researcher, and many more besides. Most users will find archived sites that deal with their particular area of interest or subject, and which may contain information that is no longer given on the equivalent live site. Sometimes the live site will no longer exist: in which case the UK Web Archive is likely to hold the only copy that remains.

Those represented by the sites themselves, in all the diversity of the United Kingdom, are also intended to be prime users. Website owners themselves use the UK Web Archive to locate information misplaced from previous versions of their sites. Because the Web is of such cultural importance in itself researchers of the history of the Internet will also find the UK Web Archive of great interest.

In addition to working radically to increase the amount of content in the UK Web Archive, the British Library, which provides the underpinning infrastructure, is committed to improving the user experience of the Archive. The web site will gradually be developed to bring even better search capabilities and other features of value to the user. The UK Web Archive will also be stored in the British Library's secure digital repository, designed to enable the UK to preserve and make accessible its digital output forever, as well as offering further opportunities of searching across various kinds of archive.

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The UK Web Archive is provided by the British Library in partnership with the National Library of Wales and the National Library of Scotland. In the past, The National Archives, JISC and The Wellcome Library have also been involved. The British Library also has worked with The Live Art Development Agency, The Society of Friends Library, The Women's Library at London Metropolitan University and other key institutions to build special collections within the UK Web Archive.

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