FAQs about the Wisconsin Historical Society Web Archives | Wisconsin Historical Society

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FAQs about the Wisconsin Historical Society Web Archives

Below are answers to questions frequently asked about the Wisconsin Historical Society Web Archives collection. If you have other questions, please contact Eileen Snyder  at 608-264-6527 or eileen.snyder@wisconsinhistory.org.

What is the difference between the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and websites collected by the WHS?

The Wayback Machine allows users to browse billions of pages of archived websites. The primary difference between the general Wayback Machine web portal and Archive-It websites collected by institutions such as the WHS (which are also viewed through the Wayback portal) is that Archive-It collections are full-text searchable. WHS staff selects websites to preserve in various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching. 

What determines how often a website is captured?

Several factors affect how often we crawl a website, such as how often the site is updated with new content, whether the site is used to communicate news, how long content remains on the site, the relationship of items on the website to holdings in the paper collections, and news events that affect the content of a site. Publications and some websites, such as state agencies and county government, are crawled on a scheduled frequency, while others are captured on an as-needed basis. Other times we try to capture a website before it is discontinued or redesigned. 

How do I view an archived website?

Enter a search term in the box to browse across all archived WHS websites or browse by collection either from the WHS Archive-It collection overview page or links to individual collections. Click on the URL for a website to see a calendar page with linked dates for all captures. An archived web page will display a yellow banner across the top with the capture date, the collection name, and the collecting institution. 

Why are there sometimes two listings for the same website?

When a website changes its address, the old URL will usually redirect to the new URL. In order to be clear about the address of the website we harvested, we create another listing when a website changes its URL. See the Relation field for the relevant linked URL. 

What does the asterisk mean by some of the capture dates?

An asterisk indicates that the page was updated with new content. Capture dates without an asterisk indicate that the website has not changed since the previous capture. The banner in these instances may read, “Note that this document was downloaded, and not saved because it was a duplicate of a previously captured version.”

Generally Archive-It does not archive the same data a second time if it has already captured that data. This feature helps conserve our data budget. 

Why are there sometimes two captures listed for the same date? Will the captures be different?

Usually this is due to a slight variation on the URL: e.g., www. in front of a URL or without it, or the presence or absence of an ending slash. There may be slight differences between two captures with the same date. 

When I click on the Play button for a video, why do I get an error message (e.g., Error loading media: File not found)?

Some archived videos may not play back in the page, however users can still access the videos using the Videos link. At the banner at the top of the page (“You are viewing an archived web page ….”), click on the link (“Videos”) to access this content (click “Watch”).

Why do some pages of the website I am viewing have different capture dates as indicated in the banner at the top of the page? Why do I see pages from an earlier or later date than the one I am supposed to be viewing?

As we review harvested websites to make sure that we captured the content we intended to archive, we are able to view missing URLs and run crawls to capture missed content. Consequently the date on the Archive-It banner may reflect the date of this secondary capture. Alternatively, some linked sites would normally be out of scope for a particular site, but because those sites are also being harvested for the collection, may default to an earlier capture of that site, hence the earlier date.

Sometimes I click on a link and nothing happens. What is going on?

It’s possible the content may not have been captured (in these instances, a “Not in Archive” screen will usually appear), but if you experience consistent difficulty viewing archived websites one troubleshooting approach is to try using another browser (for example, Firefox or Chrome).

Why are some parts of the website “Not in Archive”?

Please note that some types of web content such as database driven content (or anything that requires user input) is not accessible on captured websites, nor are some functions enabled by some scripting languages such as JavaScript. Similarly, links to pages external to the main site will be considered out of scope and will not be archived.

What is the preferred citation for something I find in an archived website?

Please include the Wayback URL, the date of capture, and the following credit: “Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society Website Archives.”

Are there any use restrictions on archived content?

As with other records held by the WHS Library-Archives Division, the WHS often does not hold copyright for those materials. The responsibility for determining copyright and obtaining the appropriate permissions for use rests with the user, not the WHS.

What if I have further questions or I know of a website or online publication that should be considered for collecting?

Please contact Eileen Snyder, Government Publications Librarian, at eileen.snyder@wisconsinhistory.org for county government websites and publications; Jacob Riehl, at jacob.riehl@wisconsinhistory.org for state government agency websites; Andrew Baraniak, at andrew.baraniak@wisconsinhistory.org for local government websites; Ron Larson, Serials Resources Librarian, at ronald.larson@wisconsinhistory.org for general online publications; and Jonathan Nelson, Collection Development Archivist, at jonathanr.nelson@wisconsinhistory.org for organic and sustainable agriculture and other thematic websites.

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Have Questions?

Contact Eileen Snyder by phone at 608-264-6527 or by email below:

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