XKCD Preservation Project Reflection/Review

The project to preserve the web comic XKCD had some interesting turns, and results at the end of it all. The beginning the goal was to preserve the webcomic using the internet archive quickly changed.  Instead I ended up creating an archival model and an AIP to go with it and learning a couple of interesting things along the way.Блоки бетонные для стен подвалов

Review: What is XKCD and why preserve it?

XKCD is a unique web comic created by Randal Munroe, a physicist who worked at NASA before moving to work on XKCD full time.  The webcomic first launched in 2005 and has had regular comics every week since then.  Due to its unique focus on science, mathematics, and other intelligent fields in addition to relationships and philosophy XKCD has an avid following amongst a number of communities.  This and the web comics significant characteristics make this comic valuable and worth preserving for the future.

Project Results/Reflection

The results of this project is an effective plan and model for the preservation of XKCD using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. However in addition to creating this model and AIP for preserving XKCD I also learned a couple of things that I did not expect to. During this project I learned about how varied archival information packages (AIPs) can be, how important having good discovery at your archive is, and that the archival model can be just as important, possibly even more important, as the AIP itself.

Going into this project I automatically assumed that archival information packages were something large, complex, and time consuming to make.  I figured that the AIP consisted of things like complex metadata, both technical and not, in addition to things like authority, policy, purpose.  What I learned that the AIP can vary dramatically in complexity due to what is being preserved and how it’s being preserved in the first place.  It turns out that the nature of the item can greatly affect how complex the AIP needs to be.  For example authority for XKCD did not need to be included in the AIP because the comic’s creator has already declared the comic available for public use.  Another thing that surprised me was that the method of preservation affected the AIP as well.  It turns out that limitations in the method of preservation can make parts of the AIP completely useless and even a waste of time.  Learning this made me realize that you have to know and understand what you archive or chosen institution can do when designing you AIP or you can end up making something that cannot be used.

The second thing I learned working on the project is that discovery for archives is extremely important. Not only is it the only way for people to find and discover things in an online archive it is also important from a preservation perspective.  When one of you goals is to make sure every entry in the archive is functional being able to find those entries because extremely important.  This is because you cannot replace or repair broken entries if you cannot find them.  Unfortunately when working with the Internet Archive I regularly found myself confused due to how the archive organizes its entries and metadata to the point of second guessing myself. I had to recheck to make sure I was right in that something was missing or broken a number of times and had actually made a mistake once or twice during the project.  This issue has given me a greater appreciation for good discovery features and the archives that have it because not only is it important to users but also to fellow archivists.

The last thing I learned from the project is that the archival model can be just as, if not more, important as the archival information package.  While the information package might be what you submit to the archive in order to preserve a record to the desired degree I came to realize that how you make that AIP and the steps to reaching the project goal can be just as, or even more, important than it.  This is because by itself the AIP is nothing but a package of information, you need to know what to do with it, how to make it, and most importantly what to do if it does not work.  In effect the AIP is only a small piece of a larger puzzle that the archival model tells you how to solve.  I did not expect this going to the project, believing that the AIP was paramount to the success of the project.  However I quickly realized that the AIP alone was not enough to properly ensure the webcomic would be preserved and that more was necessary to make that happen.  That thing turned out to be an archival model, which solved the problem nicely.  What I learned from this is that the AIP is not the only thing that matters and that it is actually part of the greater process of preserving something.

Conclusion

          In conclusion the goal of the preservation project was to preserve the XKCD webcomic because of its cultural value.  This was accomplished using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.  While working on this project I learned a number of things. I learned that the AIP can vary due to both the material and the preservation method.  I learned that the archival model, or the preservation steps, can be just as important or even more important the archival information package itself.  Finally I learned that the discovery services at the archive are extremely important in understanding what they have, what they do not have, and what needs to be replaced.  All in all I believe that I learned allot from this project and that it was worth completing.

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