Where do Websites go to Die?

In 1998 google was created.
12 years ago there were no blogs.
6 years ago YouTube did not exist, neither Facebook.
Twitter was created 4 years ago and the iPhone was born at the same time.*

In the year 3ϕϕ there will be the Dead Website Archive at the Munižaba cave [Croatia].

Following the same mission of the International Internet Preservation Consortium [IIPC], that is to acquire, preserve and make accessible knowledge and information from the Internet for future generations everywhere, and based in the same kind of philosophy as the project The Ruins of Twitter on the idea that the current times are the age of the data-loss paranoia… what if to have an archive of dead websites?

From David Garcia Studio‘s MAP 003: Archive, we can read:

Hundreds of websites are shut down daily, constantly eliminating traces of our present culture. Although services exist which make random “back ups” of the Internet, they are as robust as the media they are saved on to, and digital media has a frighteningly short lifespan.

According to Iliesiu, our behavior is based on an obsessive back-up system, where we save, we update and upgrade, in a race with crashing computers and obsolete hardware. With this obsesive behaviour and related with an article by E. Alan that we found a few years ago, it is understandable to have the same kind of concerns that Alan had when he wondered what happens to these “dead websites” after their death? And then he added: “Is there an archive where you can trace them? Does anyone keep statistics how many websites are dying daily or monthly? Which country or which category has actually the biggest cementry of websites?” Well, now it seems that we will be able to answer to this questions and say that dead websites will go to the Dead Website Archive in Munižaba.

Munižaba cave. Source: Speleologija

Munižaba cave, section. Source: Speleologija

The Dead Website Archive proposed by David Garcia Studio, will convert what was once virtual and plural while in use, to a physical and single reality when it has been removed from the Web. The archive will be located over Europe’s largest cave in Croatia and it’s task is to select the relevant shut-down-websites, and proceed to laser cut the contents of the full site into thin polycarbonate A4 sheets.

This is a response to the call for attention to the urgent need to collect and preserve the world’s cultural and historical record, that is increasingly being produced digitally and in no other form, as the Library of Congress recently published:

It took two centuries for the Library of Congress to acquire its 29 million books and 105 million other items: manuscripts, motion pictures, sound recordings, maps, prints, photographs. Today it takes only 15 minutes for the world to produce an equal amount of information in digital form.

According to Jim Barksdale and Francine Berman, an estimated 44 percent of Web sites that existed in 1998 vanished without a trace within just one year. The average life span of a Web site is only 44 to 75 days. In this context, with websites dying what we can call “a strange death”, we can’t stop asking where did they go?… and start understanding the need to have a dead website archive.

Dead Website Archive at the Munižaba cave by David Garcia Studio

Dead Website Archive at the Munižaba cave by David Garcia Studio

If we agree with the Library of Congress on their definition for “Web Archiving” as the process of collecting documents from the Internet and bringing them under local control for the purpose of preserving the documents in an archive, we should also agree that the archiving process occupies a large amount of space. That’s why choosing the right place for this archive is also an important issue.

According to the Data Centre Knowledge, the ideal location for a Data Centre is one that can accommodate growth and change and is also protected from hazards with an easy access. This kind of locations can be as diverse as urban apartments or underground bunkers and silos; so, the idea to “colonize” the Munižaba cave and build there a bridge that acts as a building, where researchers can stay, work and descend to the cave when acces to the archive is required is quite creative. As David Garcia Studio explains:

In the depth of this natural hollow, the “website sheets” are arranged chronologically, placed directly upon the topography, lit by LEDs and visited as one would a library, or a forest. Down here, websites become unique realities, housed in a single location, guaranteeing a lifespan of hundreds of years; an alternative to the fleeting existence of a hard disk.

The cave allows the user to select and photocopy an archived “web site” from the cave floor, or project it on large screens for group sudy.

Bridge as a building at the Dead Website Archive by David Garcia Studio

Web sites projected on large screens for group sudy at the Dead Website Archive

The Munižaba Cave is located in Crnopac [Croatia]. With an horizontal length of 6947 m and a depth of -437 m it is the perfect place to house the dead website archive, as David Garcia Studio is proposing. The counterpoint between arduous work that is required to move about in such an impressive natural space, and the conrast to the easy access and plural digital reality that defined the website when it was “alive”, is a way to remind us about the ephemeral life of some of our actions when we create and share contents.

Bridge as a building at the Dead Website Archive by David Garcia Studio

Some people think that archives have reached such epidemic proportions that, the digital revolution has not been able to solve the problem, but in fact it has aggravated it. Can we say that the Dead Website Archive will help us to solve this problem?

We’re not sure about the answer… whe can only speculate on the emotion of a future researcher while his eyes are discovering “ancient messages” in foreign languages, hidden in the caves and blurring into subterranean fountainheads:

“Estoy aquí entre archivos y kilos de bits… aquí debajo, ¿no me ves? Aquí…” –@pacogonzalez*

The Dead Website Archive was published on MAP 003 Archive, a project by David Garcia Studio.
* Thanks to @pacogonzalez for the initial facts and the hidden message “I’m here, between archives and tons of bits… down here, don’t you see me? Here…”

Related reading:
The Ruins of Twitter by Ioana Iliesiu
Bloggers in the Archive by Geoff Manaugh
Meeting the Challenge: Saving the World Wide Web at the Library of Congress


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