Correspondence as the Primary Measure of Quality for Web Archives: A Grounded Theory Study

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  • Creating an archived website that is as close as possible to the original, live website remains one of the most difficult challenges in the field of web archiving. Failing to adequately capture a website might mean an incomplete historical record or, worse, no evidence that the site ever even existed. This paper presents a grounded theory of quality for web archives created using data from web archivists. In order to achieve this, I analysed support tickets submitted by clients of the Internet Archive’s Archive-It (AIT), a subscription-based web archiving service that helps organisations build and manage their own web archives. Overall, 305 tickets were analysed, comprising 2544 interactions. The resulting theory is comprised of three dimensions of quality in a web archive: correspondence, relevance, and archivability. The dimension of correspondence, defined as the degree of similarity or resemblance between the original website and the archived website, is the most important facet of quality in web archives, and it is the main focus of this work. This paper’s contribution is that it presents the first theory created specifically for web archives and lays the groundwork for future theoretical developments in the field. Furthermore, the theory is human-centred and grounded in how users and creators of web archives perceive their quality. By clarifying the notion of quality in a web archive, this research will be of benefit to web archivists and cultural heritage institutions.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International