The previous blog from the UK Government Web Archive, brought to you by my colleague Claire Newing, took you back to the nostalgic 1990s. I’ll be mostly continuing Claire’s story, but, apart from a slight digression to 1858, looking at a more recent era of government technology.
In the early days of websites some folk were never wholly convinced of the value of archiving publications that could be obtained from elsewhere. Archivists like to deal in stable, certain things called records; you know where you are with a nicely labelled and dated government file, or even a fragment of medieval parchment, unchanged for centuries. Hence a whole debate went on around whether or not a website was a record; maybe it was a medium for documents that were records – or maybe it wasn’t. Happily The National Archives didn’t wait for the outcome; we went ahead and captured government websites anyway. Meanwhile, as the record debate raged, a further complication appeared: the web became an interactive medium with technologies bundled together as Web 2.0: blogs, wikis, crowd sourcing – web users could interact with the content, adding their own thoughts to pristine web pages. In the event, Web 2.0 brought with it a demonstration of the long term value of archiving website material, although it didn’t seem like it at the time.
If a website was a government record, well, here were people, members of the public from anywhere on the planet, actually changing that record. And anyway, how could something as informal as a blog be a record?
Nonetheless, in a small way at first, government began to blog. It seems commonplace now, but it was only five or six years back that the first Ministerial blog was posted by David Miliband as Minister of Communities and Local Government at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
It was long thought that the ODPM blog was lost to posterity, as David Miliband was shortly afterwards posted to Defra, taking his blog with him. But researching in the UK Government Web Archive for today’s post, I found that a Defra crawl has picked up the links back to ODPM, and by clicking on the ‘posts by category ’ tabs it looks as if all, or nearly all, of the lost first ministerial blog is there.