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Government websites and The National Archives' Catalogue
The National Archives is making the archived websites of central government departments more readily available to researchers by incorporating descriptions of websites into the Catalogue. The new Catalogue entries include hyperlinks to the relevant UK Government Web Archive pages.
A user searching our Catalogue for 'British Geological Survey', for example, will find an entry for the British Geological Survey website (crawled from 1998) next to entries for paper files.
Archiving websites is part of a solution to provide continuing access to government's online documents. The National Archives began harvesting websites in 2003, through The Internet Archive, which included approximately 50 selected UK central government websites. This expanded to encompass websites due to close under the government's website review programme, and to support The National Archives' Web Continuity initiative.
Approximately 1,800 websites are crawled each year, covering:
- Websites within scope of the government's website review programme
- Websites relating to UK central government
- Regional development agencies
- National NHS websites (not local NHS trusts/bodies)
- Public inquiries
New websites available through the Catalogue
Since the end of 2009, a methodology to accession government websites into The National Archives' Catalogue has been available. This has enabled us to create new series for the websites, to provide searchable descriptions and links as appropriate.
This project gathered momentum during January and February 2010 and we are pleased to announce that over 1,500 websites are now available through our main online Catalogue, with more being continually added. Examples of recently accessioned websites are: 10 Downing Street - Tony Blair Archive, British Embassy Tel Aviv, UK in China, Cabinet Office Online Archive, HM Treasury Euro, and the War Pensions Committee website.
From Tudor proclamation to online presence
Websites are continually evolving in nature and significance. The National Archives understands that government websites are now the prime means by which government reaches people, often in a direct and personal manner.
Websites have become the descendants of Tudor proclamations pinned to church doors, and of the posters, leaflets and films which the Ministry of Information published in the Second World War. At the same time, increasing numbers of transactions are being conducted between the government and its citizens through the internet. Issues like Foot and Mouth, the Iraq war and SARS strengthened our views. In 50 years' time, historians will wish to see what the government was saying about the progress of an epidemic or the war.