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National Archives preserves Labour government websites

Backs up 'historic information'

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The National Archives has published online historical copies of key government websites, including responses to emergencies like swine flu.

For the first time since the archives started preserving websites in 2003, online government information published in the weeks before and immediately after the general election has been "systematically documented," according to the organisation.

This includes the archiving of the Number10.gov.uk site before and after the election "to ensure nothing was lost as a result of a change of government".

"We are the only government archive in the world regularly capturing and preserving government websites," said David Thomas, director of technology at the National Archives. "The ephemeral nature of websites means there's a risk that important information could be lost without a comprehensive web archiving programme."

He continued: "The programme not only preserves the government's online record for future generations, it's also accessible right now, providing instant access to historic government information, such as the Treasury's decision on 6 May 1997 to give the Bank of England responsibility for setting interest rates."

The Identity and Passport Service website is among those that has been archived. A comparison of the current version of the website and the archived version – available through a link from the current site's front page – shows that a large amount of content has been deleted.

Explanations on what the National Identity Register is and what types of identity cards are available are no longer visible on the front page. The new Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition outlined plans in its coalition agreement, published on 12 May 2010, to scrap the National Identity Scheme.

A short notice on the UK Border Agency website says that all news stories published before April 2010 are no longer available on the site, due to a new government being in place. The National Archives has saved all content from before that date.

The pre-election version of the Department of Health website is now also preserved, although early indications suggest that the department will not be changed much. Departments such as culture, media and sport, business, innovation and skills and the Home Office have all removed content from their sites, all of which is available in archived form.

The National Archives trawls more than 1,500 government websites three times a year, capturing and preserving their contents for the digital archive of the future. The European Archive, a non-profit organisation based in Paris and Amsterdam, preserves UK government websites under a contract with the National Archives.

A spokesperson for the National Archives told GC News that the arrangement is unique. "The European Archive does web archiving for some other European organisations, such as German TV, but not for other governments in the way they do for the UK National Archives," the spokesperson said.

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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