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Library offers virtual graveyard
The dead are living on, at least in the UNT Library. Through Cyber Cemetery, UNT is working to preserve dead websites so they can still be used.
Established in 1995, the Cyber Cemetery is part of UNT’s Digital Library, and is home to an archive of federal government websites no longer operating and removed from the Internet. According to the website, the Cyber Cemetery features topics in government and websites that support UNT’s curriculum. It is a free service available even to those outside of UNT.
“There is nothing like the UNT Cyber Cemetery,” said Jesse Silva, head of government documents for UNT Libraries. “It is a great public service UNT is providing to the community.”
The process of archiving websites is called crawling, similar to taking an interactive photograph. When a website is about to expire, UNT is contacted, and the website is crawled and archived so it can be preserved.
While other services throughout the country and web archive, UNT’s program features only federal government websites. In the mid-2000s, the National Archives and Record Administration asked that the Cyber Cemetery become an affiliate.
“We recognized that the Internet would be the primary source of government contact,” said Mark Phillips, assistant dean of the Digital Library. “The Cyber Cemetery preserves what may go away, and opens all new areas of scholarship when it comes to research and how these websites reflected their time.”
External links, search bars and videos embedded in archived sites may not always work, but the archived sites provide a glimpse into the past and show the date the website was captured, and when it expired.
“As a government information librarian, it is my job to acquire and preserve government information,” Silva said. “Online, sites are vulnerable and can be pulled at any time. The Cyber Cemetery is a safeguard to make sure the information is preserved.”
The Cyber Cemetery is completely nonprofit and funded by UNT Libraries. The exact cost of the operating the Cyber Cemetery is not known, and many people are involved in operating it, Phillips said.
“It is just a phenomenal tool UNT provides,” Silva said. “UNT students should be proud that their university is at the forefront of archiving websites technologies, and the huge impact our Cyber Cemetery plays.”