I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve been told the web wasn’t an archive. I wouldn’t be rich, but I could buy us a couple slices of pizza.
I know these people mean well. They are trying to say that an archive is something more than a mere collection of files on a computer plugged into the Internet, with some software running on it. An archive is made of records, and recordkeeping is the
systematic creation, use, maintenance, and disposition of records to meet administrative, programmatic, legal, and financial needs and responsibilities.
Pearce-Moses & Baty (2005)
But this somewhat orthodox position misses the point that a website can often be a highly significant collection of records, that are used by individuals, organizations, or even specific communities. There are recordkeeping processes and practices that feed into and out-of websites, which need the attention of people who are trained to be able to see these movements of records, and think about them as archives.
At any rate, if you ever find yourself in this defensive position as a student or professional, remember that the Records Continuum Model has got your back. Here’s how they define recordkeeping:
It encompasses a range of intertwined recordkeeping and archiving processes and activities carried out by records managers and archivists for current, regulatory and historical recordkeeping purposes. These purposes include roles that recordkeeping plays in and through space and time in governance and accountability, remembering and forgetting, shaping identity and providing value-added sources of information. In classificatory terms “recordkeeping” in this usage subsumes records management and archival administration. It also encompasses the personal and corporate recordkeeping activities undertaken by individuals in their everyday lives, in families, work or community groups, and in organizations of all kinds.
McKemmish, Upward, & Reed (2010), p. 4448
This includes all types of content that are found on the web, and (I’d argue) also the sociotechnical infrastructures that make them possible. I don’t think I should have to move to Australia (where the Records Continuum model was established) to put this pluralistic idea of what archives encompass to work.
But I will buy you a slice of pizza 🍕
McKemmish, S., Upward, F., & Reed, B. (2010). Encyclopedia of library and information sciences. In M. Bates & M. N. Maack (Eds.). Taylor & Francis.
Pearce-Moses, R., & Baty, L. A. (2005). A glossary of archival and records terminology. Society of American Archivists Chicago, IL. Retrieved from https://www2.archivists.org/glossary