Niels Brügger – The Archived Web: Doing History in the Digital Age


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262039024, English, 200 pages, 2018, USA

As with other phenomena now implicated in our growing dependence on online media, the archiving of web data has become essential for addressing our recent past. In the double role of supporting general history through websites and website infrastructures and also contributing to the history of the web, the need to safely store webpages, and understand how this task is currently achieved, is an essential issue. The importance of keeping track of what, when, and where information has been published is increasing and will be essential in a few decades. As historical, source and reference material, the web needs to be archived in some way and these archives need to be made publicly available. Brügger stays in the theoretical field of this topic, but defines some key issues, such as the difference between digitised, born-digital and reborn digital material. The author mostly reports and speculates on strategies. In the fourth chapter “Cases of Web history”, there are plenty of understandable archiving cases, constituting a relevant collection. And beyond adopting radical strategies like Kenneth Goldsmith’s performances of “Printing out the Internet”, there are lots of details here about sources that have not been archived, or which are hardly archivable. Brügger contributes to an overall understanding and possibly inspires new solutions.