Web archiving strategy

Web archives are important components of the historical record for communities, organizations, and individuals. The University of Virginia Library began a consistent practice of web archiving using Archive-It in 2016.  

Web archives, like all other materials collected by UVA Library and within Special Collections, align with our collection development strategy. Additionally, web archives may require considerations and/or have limitations not directly addressed in the collection development  strategy, such as website technical infrastructure, media components, and permissions. 


Current scope of collecting 

University archives

As part of its mission to preserve historically and legally valuable records of the University for future use, the University of Virginia’s web archiving program regularly archives websites related to the University. This service differs from the backup and storage options offered by University IT primarily in that the archived websites are preserved, described, and remain discoverable, accessible and browsable over time, even if the content is removed from the live web. Once archived, older versions of the websites can be searched or browsed online (see FAQ section below). 

Active collecting is currently focused on materials related to: 

  • UVA executive administration, such as the Board of Visitors and Office of the President 
  • School Deans and school units, such as the College of Arts & Sciences and all affiliated departments 
  • UVA administrative offices, such as the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer and the Vice President forDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Community Partnerships
  • Student life, such as Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) websites 

Additional archival collection areas

Websites related to collection areas already deemed distinctive by Special Collections collection development strategy may also be selected by curators for web archiving.  



Why would I use web archives for my research? 

Web archives can provide a wealth of information for research and are important modern records. A few examples of how you might use web archives include: 

  • Browse the web archives of university organizations or departments to see change of mission, organizational focus, courses, past events, web design, or available materials over time 
  • Find archives for websites or initiatives that are no longer available on the live web to aid in research 
  • Compare digital web archives materials with corresponding physical materials available in the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library Reading room 

How do I  find, use, and navigate web archives? 

You can currently access and search all of our public collections on our Archive-It page. You can also access some web archives from our manuscript and archival material database

Are there any limitations to web archives? 

We intend to reflect how a website looked and behaved at the time it was archived as completely as possible. However, due to the structure of websites and the technical realities of web crawling technology (software that identifies and collects website data), some digital content may not capture and could appear to be missing or "broken" on archived websites.   

Digital content that is difficult to capture with current web crawling technology includes: 

  • Social media and embedded content 
  • Server-side scripts & dynamic websites (e.g. auto-load functionality as you scroll on a webpage, databases requiring user input such as search terms) 
  • Some videos and streaming media 
  • Websites requiring a login or that are behind a paywall 

If websites have broken links on the live web, a crawler will produce those same results for web archives. In short, if a site isn't well maintained on the live web, that same lack of maintenance will also appear in the web archives. 

Questions or comments? Drop us a line at uva-webarch@virginia.edu.