The Internet Archive is a massive archival collection of information of many types of media. It describes itself as, “…a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” The Archive functions as an internet library in two ways, it is a library on the internet, but also the contents of the library is basically the entire internet. The Archive contains a tremendous amount of data on literally all kinds of media contained on the web. One particularly impressive feature is the Wayback Machine, which allows users to access web pages over time, including pages, and versions of pages that no longer exist. For example, I can use the Wayback Machine to access the 4/27/1999 edition of espn.go.com. I can use the site as it was on that day, which could be a great research tool in addition to being a very cool feature. The Wayback Machine speaks to one of the ultimate goals of the Internet Archive, which is to provide a historical record of the internet for future historians and academics. It has partnered with throngs of highly decorated institutions and has been around since the beginnings of mainstream internet usage.
This digital collection meets and surpasses all of the criteria set by Timothy W. Cole in his article, “Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections.” These criteria have to do mostly with practical issues like credibility, proper citation, and accessibility. This relatively low bar is easily met by the Internet Archive. Some features that stand out, relating to these criteria, are that the data in the collection is clearly sourced and respects intellectual property rights.
The Archive also succeeds on a broader scale, when evaluating the Internet Archive for its aesthetic and functional attributes. The Archive is clearly laid out with both icons and text to describe the different types of media contained within. Also the number of each kind of media is displayed below the icon, which gives the viewer an immediate sense of the tremendous scope of the project. All of the media within is sortable by many categories and searchable via queries. This project is also impressive because, to my knowledge, there is no digital collection that even approaches the size and ease of use of the Digital Archive.
The most impressive part of the Digital Archive is its sheer size and comprehensive sorting. Literally every type of thing I could think of is contained within this archive and it is all catalogued and sorted appropriately. Overall, I think the Digital Archive is a tremendous success and will only continue to become more so as it grows.
Cole, Timothy W. “Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections.” First Monday 7, no. 5 (May 2002). doi:10.5210/fm.v7i5.955.