The world is losing irreplaceable information about human history, commerce, political and social movements, and creative life as information disappears from the Internet.

This crucial issue will be the focus of a meeting at the National Library of Australia this week involving representatives of more than 30 leading libraries, archives, cultural heritage institutions and private organisations from around the world.

The second General Assembly of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) will be held at the Library in Canberra from 7–11 April 2008.

National Library Director-General Jan Fullerton said the world risked losing its digital memory and libraries around the world were working together to try to save it. “Capturing and ensuring access to content on the Web for future generations – not just as an historical and cultural record but also as raw material for research and creativity – is a challenge gaining momentum across the world,” she said.

“The Library is a world leader in this area and has saved many notable Australian websites since 1996, including the Sydney Olympic Games and election campaign sites, but much more needs to be done – and could be done with greater resources and copyright changes to ensure ongoing access to online materials. But without adequate recognition, policy development, planning and investment in research and infrastructure development, much of Australia’s ever-increasing digital memory will be lost.”

The Library’s Director of Web Archiving & Digital Preservation, Colin Webb, compared the situation around the world to book-burning on a grand scale. “If this loss of information was deliberate we would all be appalled. It will only be in the future that it is realised how much we have lost accidentally and how important it was.”

The General Assembly will bring together experts from around the world to share and discuss policies, methods and standards for web archiving, strategies for preservation and ongoing access, and to collaboratively develop the open-source software tools needed to achieve these objectives. Organisations represented at the meeting include the Library of Congress, the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Japan’s National Diet Library and the Internet Archive.

Colin Webb is available for interview. Mobile: 0422 513 153

Media contacts: Sally Hopman, 02 6262 1704;
Ellen Peterson, 02 6262 1571;