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Cobweb Update: Supporting Collaborative Web Archiving

Not unlike the arachnids to which we allude in the Cobweb name, the team behind this open source service platform designed to support collaborative collection development for web archives has been industriously working up an initial prototype of the system. With a production launch set for October 2018, we will continue to be busy through the coming months as we iterate on the current and next prototypes, refining functional requirements and interface design in response to what we learn from those who build collections of web resources as well as those who use these resources in their research.

The tools that Cobweb provides will bring subject specialists, digital curators, and researchers together to coordinate the work of building thematic web archives by allowing them to:

  • establish thematic web archiving collecting projects,
  • nominate web resources for capture,
  • claim nominated web resources with an intention to capture them, and
  • contribute descriptions of those web resources that have been captured. 

Descriptions of web resources included in Cobweb can serve as a community registry, searchable by anyone looking either to grow web archive collections or find archived web resources useful to their research. Towards this end, concurrent with developing functionality for the Cobweb system, we are also actively working to populate the Cobweb database with descriptions of web resources currently stewarded by archiving organizations, starting with those made publicly available via the Archive-It OAI-PMH metadata feed. By including as many descriptions of already-archived web resources in Cobweb as possible, and by allowing subject specialists to both nominate and describe web resources that are candidates for archiving, the platform will provide opportunities for curators to make informed, contextually-based decisions about where and how to grow thematic web archive collections. 

Cobweb both supports and is dependent upon engaged use by and across communities of curators and researchers. As such, we’re reaching out to these communities in a number of ways. Since beginning work on Cobweb in earnest last year, we’ve been engaging in conversation with web archiving practitioners to better model, and thus support, the workflows they’ve developed to collaborate across organizations and between individual roles in developing thematic web archive collections. We’ve also been getting the word out about Cobweb at a range of conferences and meetings to invite both broad and deep participation in the building and ultimate use of the platform. Late last year, we had the chance to share Cobweb progress at the 2017 Dodging the Memory Hole conference, where the themes of collaboration and community involvement in developing and providing access to digital news collections both resonated with and reflected the work that we’re doing with Cobweb.

To get involved with or simply for more information about Cobweb, contact Kathryn Stine, Cobweb Outreach Manager.

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