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Assignment 3 Review

The Objectives

Assignment 3 was both the most ambitious and the most challenging. The last few years, we've tried to have the final assignment be a group project, require both a presentation and paper, and be tool-dependent -- students are expected to use and demonstrate use of a specific tool/technology/platform as part of the project. The intent is to require collaborative group work, to make folks do public presentations, and to use (and often abuse) a digital stewardship tool they were previously unfamiliar with. Much of the preso/paper is expected to be reflection on their successes/frustrations with the tool and explicating how this tool and their experiences with it tie into larger archival concepts and theories like appraisal, description, access et cetera. The challenges start to become apparent when you imagine juggling all those variables, both as a student and as an instructor.

The Good

We owe Archive-It and Lori Donovan especially a huge thanks for including University of Pittsburgh SIS in their Educational Partnership program. They did a class training for us and gave us an Archive-It account and space for a couple dozen students and one instructor to basically go nuts archiving the web (and all the good and bad that that implies).

The Bad

There were ample challenges to this assignment, as mentioned. If you check out the additional guidance you can discern what many of them were. The first one was managing the scope of the assignment (from my end) and the scope of the collections (from the student end). To balance an in-depth use of Archive-It with the fact that the assignment also required a group paper and group presentation along with the fact that this was only one of three assignments and one of many classes (and final semester assignments), we advised student to have a small number of specific seeds, meaning very specific themes/topics/events for their collections. This proved hard to manage.

For one, given the small number of seeds (under 10 and more like 4-6) we expected/advised very specific collections. Instead, some students had very broad themes and included very large, complex websites instead of small, more static ones.

Other groups had difficulty bridging that gap between an event/theme and its representation on the web, sometimes not understanding that a newly created web archive collection would be forward-pointing, not backwards-pointing and thinking that archiving a site would also capture it's previous incarnations.

Also, one training session and some weeks of muckity-mucking with the tool was hardly enough to allow students to gain a full understanding of all the Archive-It functions and features. This was somewhat intentional, as we wanted to force them to have to use the help wiki and instructional videos to figure things out, but it also posed a time challenge, and some parts of their collection building, especially QA/QC and some other crawl reporting tools, suffered or were underutilized.

The Outcomes

You can find the five student-created collections at

Assignment 3 Original Text

Assignment 3: Archive-It Report and Presentation (Professional audience; 10-12 pages and 15 minutes)

In this assignment, each SWG will use the Internet Archive's web archiving tool Archive-It to harvest websites and build a small test collection. After receiving training on Archive-It, you will choose 4 websites to harvest for building your collection. You will then run test crawls, analyze the results, scope your harvesting, run production crawls, perform quality assurance, and present on the overall results of the project.

Your report and final presentation will cover the following topics:

  • What is the theme of your collection? By what criteria did you appraise and select websites (domains, subdomains, specific pages, etc.) for inclusion in your collection? *What surprises did you encounter in your test crawls? What sort of content and file types did your crawls return? What problems as far as acquisition did you discover?
  • Discuss how you went about scoping your collection between the test and production crawls.
  • Discuss using Archive-It. How do specific functionalities of the tool tie into your work? How does it support specific parts of acquisition, scoping, and access? What did you like or find confusing about using it?
  • What recommendations would you give to someone taking over future management of this collection? Were this test crawling for an institution exploring the possibility of starting a web archiving program, what would you advise for further investigation?
  • Lastly, discuss how the assignment ties into the broader issues of preserving digital culture that we have investigated over the semester. What thematic issues of digital stewardship does web archiving highlight? How does this tie into your SWG theme?

For the presentation, your SWG will be in charge of deciding everything about how you present your project. You can record something ahead of time, you can perform a group presentation, you can elect only one person to do all of the talking, you may dance your presentation—it does not matter, so long as the presentation lasts for 15 minutes and it achieves the goal of presenting the problem, method, and results of your project. You will be evaluated on the ability to convey this information, not on conforming to a format requirement.