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Erasing history

Reader comment on item: Erasing the George W. Bush Administration Online

Submitted by Fred Calm (United States), Jul 12, 2010 at 11:39

Disagree somewhat. Web sites are communications tools, and requiring new administrations to honor links to prior administrations' material imposes prior administrations' hierarchical organization of web pages or taxonomy of messaging on the current and future administrations. Agree fully that losing access to source documents amounts not so much to historical revisionism as historical amnesia. Two approaches to balancing the opposing needs of, an the one hand, an administration controlling how it presents itself and on the other, access to archival materials.

1. Archive.org is a partial solution provided by a third-party organization, so access to some former material on whitehouse.gov may be available through them.

2. Congress should enact a law requriring the White House and Federal Departments and agencies to automatically archive their web sites and each web page to provide a "permalink" to its chronologically archived version. It's an ugly compromise that assumes that it is both technically feasible and economically affordableavailability to provide reliable access to massive (and growing) amounts of information. People who are interested in permanence should use the permalinks, not the ephemeral surface links.

Librarians and archivists wrestle with the issues of how to organize and index news sites and online journals whose content is always changing, especially online-only publications that do not publish discrete editions. Perhaps people in that field have some thoughts about how to deal with this.


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