by Sarah Gotschall
In 2008, the International Internet Preservation Consortium and National Digital Infrastructure and Preservation Program joined together to archive the web at the end of presidential administrations, starting with George W. Bush. The purpose of the End of Term Web Archive collaboration was to archive all the Federal Government websites before they changed during the next administration. The archive includes all three branches of government and covers a few months before and after the new term. The 2016 archive has recently become available.
There were big changes that led to a huge 2016 archive. Stanford University and George Washington University joined the original partners and many volunteers worked to expand the scope of the archive. A nomination tool allowed the public and information professional to nominate websites and datasets for inclusion in the archive and over 100,000 were nominated. The capture period ran from September 2016 to March 2017 and 53,324 sites were archived, up from 3,305 in 2008 and 3,273 in 2012.
Full Text Searching
You can search for information in the archive in two different ways. First, you can run a full-text search in each of the three archives. The search features are not particularly sophisticated at this time. You can search by terms or phrases (by enclosing terms in quotation marks), but there is no way to limit the search by date, website, or domain. As an example, I ran a search in the 2008 archive to find sites about Vice President Cheney shooting his friend while hunting.
Browse Web Archive
The second choice is to browse the archive. To find the vice presidential sites, I used the Site Lookup field which searches the site title, description, or URL. I typed in vice president, then clicked on 2016 under Administration to limit my search. I had the option to further limit my search under Government Agency Domains. Unfortunately, there is no option to search within the full text of the sites.
The End of Term Web Archive project provides a valuable public service. So much digital information is lost to posterity every day, so it is wonderful that this project is saving so much history and cultural knowledge for the future. Hopefully, in time, the search features will improve since it would be useful to combine full-text searching with the ability to limit the search by administration, date, and domain.