August 28, 2017

Explore the past with the Lafayette College Web Archive

The Lafayette College Web Archive is a time machine for exploring the past of the College’s online presence. The web archive features snapshots of the College’s various websites dating back to March 2, 2000.

The web archive  is curated by the College Archives and managed with assistance from Information Technology Services (ITS) and the Communications Division. It is powered by Archive-It, a service of the Internet Archive (which also provides a public archive of the Web through its Wayback Machine tool.

The tool works by periodically crawling the College’s public web presence (the exact sites it crawls are listed on the Web Archive’s homepage) and taking snapshots of the pages it finds. The pages are navigable using a web browser, allowing people to navigate through the College’s web presence as it existed on that date and time.

The tool isn’t perfect — there are resources that it can have a hard time retrieving (particularly those that are heavily reliant on JavaScript) and the crawl only includes the College’s web presence and select College-related web resources like YouTube. As a result, while a College news story from a particular day would be archived by the service, a CNN webpage linked to from that story would not be saved.

During the College’s 2015-17 redesign project, Special Collections verified that the web archive had a snapshot of the previous iteration of the website before its redesign version launched. This has proved helpful after launch as people used it to figure out how they’re website navigation used to work or where a particular form was once stored. The service is also helpful for answer questions like “when did we hold this event last year?” or “how did we communicate this to first-year students the last time around?”

These examples of snapshotted pages give a feel for how the service works:

The crawl isn’t perfect. There are times when Archive-It wasn’t able to collect all of the resources for a given page (for example, the cascading stylesheets associated with this College Archives website crawl from 2010. Where possible, Lafayette works with Archive-It to fix these issues but some are more difficult — and less fixable — than others.

Questions and comments about the Lafayette College Web Archive can be sent to  archives@lafayette.edu.