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A group of British archiving and educational institutions, including the British Library and the National Archives, have come together with the aim of preserving a record of Britain's Web presence.

The UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC) is the latest of several online archiving projects, and follows in the footsteps of high profile efforts to preserve otherwise ephemeral Web content such as the Wayback Machine and Web.Archive.org.

Online content currently has an average life span of 44 days, which, as the British Library points out, is the same as a housefly. UKWAC will work, with the rights holders' permission, to ensure that "invaluable scholarly, cultural and scientific resources remain available for future generations".

Each of the institutions involved in UKWAC, which also includes the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher and Further Education Councils (JISC), the National Library of Wales, the National Library of Scotland and the Wellcome Trust, is responsible for collecting and storing sites relevent to its own area.

For example, the British Library will archive sites reflecting national culture and events of historical importance. These won't be limited to 'official' records either. The Library says it will be checking (selected) blogs, museum Web pages, e-theses, and Web-based literary and creative projects by British subjects. The Scottish and Welsh libraries will do likewise for Scotland and Wales.

The duty of preserving medical information on the Web falls to Wellcome, the National Archives will archive governmental information and the JISC will preserve websites from interesting ICT projects taking place in UK colleges and universities.

As well as working separately, the groups will collaborate on developing selection policies and "to investigate the complex technical challenges involved in collecting and archiving Web material", according to a statement issued by The British Library.

The project will initially run for two years, and it aims to collect and archive approximately 6,000 UK Web sites. ®

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