Welcome back to the web

Welcome back to the web
reviving the 'lost' website jeff.com.au
29 November 2012

In August I wrote a blog post about a memorable website that we were unable to capture before it disappeared from the web in September 1999 after being online for no more than a month. The website jeff.com.au was notable for its pioneering use, in Australia at least, of the web for election campaigning, with is focus on the personality of incumbent Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, along with the use of technology such as flash and games.

Front page of jeff.com.au

Front page of the 1999 jeff.com.au website

The nature of the web, particularly the ability for content to disappear without apparent trace, means that we often don’t know what we have lost, what we might have missed. However in the case of jeff.com.au we certainly knew it because we had tried to collect it, but as web archivers we ‘fell at the last hurdle” – and in this case the Internet Archive did not provide the fall-back and fared no better as the did not do their crawling at the critical time. Well, my little bit of 'blegging' in that August post, much to my surprise and delight, produced results. A reader of the that August blog post got in contact and informed me that they had a copy of the site and were prepared to send the files. When the files arrived (on CD-R) I was again surprised and excited to see that the copy was in tip-top shape being complete and functional – even the games! The harvest appears to have been done with Teleport Pro, which was an offline browser that we did not use at the NLA (we chose to go with HTTrack).

High graphics main page for jeff.com.au

The main page of the 'high graphics' version of the 1999 jeff.com.au website

Adding content to the PANDORA Archive that disappeared from the web over 12 years ago, was a new experience; however, this is something that we may want to pursue more actively in the future. Practical considerations include the matters of permissions, provenance and date-stamping of the archived instance (copy). Much of this is necessarily recorded in our management systems and records. Adding the copy of the website to the archive was not complicated technically as the PANDAS workflow system that we use has the facility to upload content from a local drive. While PANDAS is not a deposit system per se, it does include a workflow for uploading deposited content and is not entirely dependent upon harvesting as the only mechanism for collecting content. Of course this process created an archived ‘instance’ with the date-stamp of the upload date not the date of the original copy of the website. Internal evidence from the copy suggests it was originally copied around 17th or 18th of September 1999. The instance date in the PANDORA Archive however appears as 5th November 2012 the date it was uploaded to PANDORA. The use of ‘title entry pages’ allows us to add public notes to the access page to the archived copy to explain the discrepancies.

Title entry page for archive of jeff.com.au

The PANDORA 'title entry page' for the jeff.com.au website

Because collecting election campaign material is a common focus of collecting for the PANDORA Archive, some years ago we obtained general 'blanket' permissions from all the major political parties to collect official campaign material published on the web. This is to facilitate the timely capture of this particularly ephemeral web material. With this justification, and given the historical importance of the site, we have now made the archived copy of jeff.com.au available to the public for the first time since September 1999.   So, welcome back to the web, jeff.com.au!