OHSU’s web archives

Have you ever gone looking for an old website and been unable to find it? Or have you found that whatever information you were looking for has been changed? Welcome to the wonderful world of constant transformation.

OHSU’s Historical Collections & Archives is home to some pretty intriguing historical documents on health sciences practices and procedures, with a focus on happenings in and around Oregon, as well as a huge collection of medical/dental/nursing artifacts. But we’re also tasked with keeping and preserving the permanent records of OHSU (and its precursor, the University of Oregon Medical School). What once was strictly paper records, slowly became a mix of paper and electronic, and has now become much more electronic than analog. And as more and more information is distilled through the world wide web (and sometimes only through that medium), it has become apparent to most in the archives field, that websites also constitute institutional records and should be considered for long-term preservation.

When I began as OHSU’s University Archivist, about 2 years ago, one of my first goals was to begin documenting the web presence of OHSU, its partners, and its students. The trouble with the web is that it changes constantly and everything is made up of lots of smaller parts – think beyond the mere text and consider links, images, embedded video, flash, graphic layouts, and more. The technicalities of all of that make websites hard to capture in a way that preserves both the information they contain and the way in which that information was presented.

old Dotter Institute website from 2017
www.ohsu.edu/dotter (the old Dotter Institute website, captured in 2017)

Luckily, the Internet Archive, famous for capturing so many lost sites, software, games, and gifs, not to mention the ever-so-handy Wayback Machine, has a fee-based service (Archive-It) that institutions can subscribe to in order to more effectively and efficiently capture their web content. After a trial run and some budget-related negotiating, last year, I managed to implement the Archive-It web archiving service at OHSU. And I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.

new Dotter Institute website from 2018
The page you’ll get if you try to visit www.ohsu.edu/dotter today

The result is a fairly comprehensive collection of websites for OHSU, partner programs and institutes, and student-led efforts. While no web archive is likely to be 100% complete, I’m working to continually update and expand the list of sites being captured to provide a better and wider scope of OHSU’s impact via their web presence. We aren’t capturing social media just yet – that requires a lot more effort and is relatively ephemeral in nature. But if you know of a site that isn’t in the archive and should be, please drop me a line and let me know.