Web archives are an increasingly important resource for arts and humanities researchers, yet we have neither the expertise nor the tools to use them effectively. Both the data itself and the process of collection are poorly understood, and it is possible only to draw the broadest of conclusions from current methods of analysis. The project will work with the dataset derived from the UK domain crawl from 1996 to 2013 (that is, when legal deposit legislation was extended to cover digital materials), totalling approximately 65 terabytes and constituting many billions of words. For the arts and humanities, this is very big data indeed.
A key objective of the project will be to develop a theoretical and methodological framework within which to study this data, which will be applicable to the much larger on-going UK domain crawl, as well as in other national contexts. Researchers will work with developers at the British Library to co-produce tools which will support their requirements, testing different methods and approaches.
A major study of the history of UK web space from 1996 to 2013, including language, file formats, the development of multimedia content, shifts in power and access, and so on, will be complemented by a series of sub-projects from a range of disciplines, for example contemporary history, literature, gender studies and material culture.
Project outputs will include a suite of tools associated with the 1996-2013 dataset; a series of case studies produced by the sub-projects; an online training course for arts and humanities researchers; peer-reviewed journal articles; and a monograph on the history of the UK web during this period.
Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities is a collaboration between the British Library, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, the Oxford Internet Institute and Aarhus University. It is one of 21 big data projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities theme.