Apologies for being a bit late with this article.Â The weeks around the holidays seem to get more hectic with each passing year.Â With that in mind, I am anticipating only one or, possibly, two more Web 2.0 columns before the new year.Â I appreciate your understanding.
This week’s article will be taking a look at one of the most useful free websites: the Internet Archive.Â The Internet Archive (IA) project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that is building an online digital archive of websites and other cultural artifacts.Â Access to all of this is being provided free of charge to anyone who wants it.
IA is probably best known for the Wayback Machine, a searchable index of 150 billion web pages collected since the very beginnings of the World Wide Web.Â The Wayback Machine is an excellent tool to locate information from defunct websites.Â The index often includes many versions of a given site, gathered over a period of time.Â I’ve used it both to recover data from lost sites and to find information that was once on a previous version of a website.Â There are a few drawbacks to the Wayback Machine, however.Â The most significant is that websites that make heavy use of dynamically generated content (php, Flash, Java, etc.) may not function as expected.Â This is because, while the Wayback Machine might contain a site’s various pages, it may not contain the content from the site’s database that belongs on those pages.
The IA isn’t just the Wayback Machine, though.Â It also contains a significant collection of video, music, audio, texts, and software.Â Usage rights to the artifacts vary, but most are nearly unrestricted, allowing content to be shared, printed, and used in most non-commercial settings.Â Artifacts are divided into various collections and contain things like Project Gutenberg, the Universal Library Project, live music concerts from hundreds of artists, radio programs, including Old Time Radio programs from the early 1900s, open source, freeware, and shareware software archives, classic television programming, full length feature films, and more.Â Content is hosted in a variety of formats and many artifacts are offered in several versions.
The Archive is an amazing collection of often otherwise difficult to locate culturally significant artifacts that cover a variety of eras.Â Content is offered in a multitude of formats, require a variety of helper applications.Â A modern web browser, broadband Internet access, Adobe Reader, the free DjVu Browser Plug-in (used for reading some text files), and an media player application (like iTunes, Windows Media Player, and/or VLC) will be needed depending on the type of content you are trying to access.
The Internet Archive can be of use in almost any classroom setting.Â History classes can benefit from audio, video, and text files from a wide variety of time periods, exposing students to primary source documents and expending their understanding of life in those time periods.Â English/Literature classes can likewise benefit from access to the IA’s literature collection.Â Teachers and students in other content areas will be able to locate artifacts related to their specific areas of interest.Â Additionally, much of IA’s content can be re-used (mashed-up) to create new content by students and teachers alike.Â This makes the IA a significant source of content for students doing art, video, or other projects that can benefit from multimedia.