Lunch at the Internet Archive

Internet Archive, 300 Funston, San FranciscoIf you find yourself in San Francisco on a Friday, you might want to consider making the trip to 300 Funston Avenue to have lunch with some quite remarkable people.  The Internet Archive was founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996 and has been crawling the web ever since.

I can search for the trAce Online Writing Centre, founded in 1995, and find copies of the site archived several times a year for ten years. I'd never really imagInternet Archive Friday lunchined, though, that the Internet Archive had a physical existence, so it was quite surreal to find myself inside a large re-purposed church on a residential street near the Golden Gate Park having lunch with 30 or so of the 300-strong IA team. Brewster Kahle himself was there along with special guest Ted Nelson, who is donating his personal archive. As I understand it, anyone is welcome to the lunch. The price you pay is to stand up and introduce yourself as everyone goes around the table and updates the group on that week's archive work. 

The archive is not just webpages. After lunch a few of us went around the corner to see a dozen or so people diligently scanning, page by page, hundreds of books donated to the archive. I filmed one of the workers, Rebecca, for a while as she described the process – the image is rather unclear at the start but gets better towards the end.

What does all this mean for transliteracy? I guess it's about the literacy of memory. The question of how we archive digital work and preserve it for future generations to access is fraught with problems as technology evolves and, ironically, digitising books won't be the answer unless the digitised work itself can still be read – but I'm sure Brewster Kahle is onto that.

I strongly recommend regular visits to the archive online, and in San Francisco too if you can make it. The whole venture is inspiring in its ambition and reach.

A few more pics here.