Skip to main content

Cobweb: Collaborative Collection Development for Web Archives

A partnership between the CDL, Harvard Library, and UCLA Library has been award funding from IMLS to create Cobweb, a collaborative collection development platform for web archiving,

The demands of archiving the web in comprehensive breadth or thematic depth easily exceed the technical and financial capacity of any single institution.  To ensure that the limited resources of archiving programs are deployed most effectively, it is important that their curators know something about the collection development priorities and holdings of other, similarly-engaged institutions.  Cobweb will meet this need by supporting three key functions: nominating, claiming, and holdings.  The nomination function will let curators and stakeholders suggest web sites pertinent to specific thematic areas; the claiming function will allow archival programs to indicate an intention to capture some subset of nominated sites; and the holdings function will allow programs to document sites that have actually been captured.

How would Cobweb work?  Imagine a fast-moving news event unfolding online via news reports, videos, blogs, and social media.  Recognizing the importance of recording this event, a curator immediately creates a new Cobweb project and issues an open call for nominations .  Scholars, subject area specialists, interested members of the public, and event participants themselves quickly respond, contributing to a site list more comprehensive than could be created by any one curator or institution.  Archiving institutions review the site list and publicly claim responsibility for capturing portions of it that are consistent with their local policies and technical capabilities.  After capture, the institutions’ holdings information is updated in Cobweb to disclose the various collections containing newly available content.  It’s important to note that Cobweb collects only metadata; the actual archived web content would continue to be managed by the individual collecting organizations.  Nevertheless, by distributing the responsibility, more content will be captured more quickly with less overall effort than would otherwise be possible.

Cobweb will help libraries and archives make better informed decisions regarding the allocation of their individual programmatic resources, and promote more effective institutional collaboration and sharing.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, #LG-70-16-0093-16.