On February 2-3, members of the California Digital Library Web archiving team took part in a working meeting of the Memento Project, hosted by the Internet Archive. Led by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Old Dominion University (ODU), Memento is an NDIIPP-funded project aimed at making Web-archived content more readily discoverable. Rather than expecting people to know about the growing number of Web archives, and to guess which archive might hold an older version of the resource they’re looking for, Memento proposes to make archived content discoverable via the original URL that the searcher already knew about.
This project represents a potentially extraordinary development for Web archivists. As we try to address the Web’s instability on a site-by-site basis, and sometimes even at the document level, there is always the question of just how much people will benefit from our efforts if they don’t know about the archives. The Memento developers are addressing this issue at the fundamental level of how Web servers interact with HTTP protocol, and how information about archives (or an aggregator of archives) may be included there. A similar but narrower application of this principle is already in use by the UK National Archives and British government agencies.
A good non-technical overview of the project and its promise has been written up in the Telstar blog: “The When of the Web” < http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/telstar/2009/11/24/the-when-of-the-web/>. Extensive information about the proposal and experiment is available in the November 2009 paper “Memento: Time Travel for the Web” <http://arxiv.org/pdf/0911.1112v2> and via the Memento Project site <http://www.mementoweb.org/>.
The meeting included participants from LANL, ODU, the Internet Archive, CDL, the Library of Congress, LOCKSS, Stanford and elsewhere. We at CDL will be watching Memento progress closely and contributing where possible. The meeting was a reminder of the range of research efforts underway in Web archiving, and suggested that when discovery solutions are found, they may very well be broadly and retroactively beneficial.