Posts Tagged ‘web archiving’

The creative process for large fashion corporations, from design houses to fast-fashion behemoths, is breakneck, furious and often wasteful. Fashion companies on average deliver up to eight collections a year and mass companies can churn out up to 52 “micro-seasons” a year, with new trends hitting stores weekly.[1] Season after season, week after week, ideas are generated, textiles are developed, prints and patterns are drawn, stitches, patterns and techniques are developed and samples are created. All parts of the product development life cycle are carefully detailed and documented to share with manufacturing facilities around the world. This process utilizes thousands of people and continues non-stop, every day, all year long. In order to keep deliveries on time, and ultimately, customers coming back for more, this process requires working twelve months or more in advance. And once the process of garment creation is underway there is an immediate need to market these collections.

Industry giants dedicate tens of millions of dollars a year to launch massive advertising and public relation campaigns in order to keep fashion feeling new and exciting. Like the creation of apparel, marketing also follows a relentless life cycle creating new visuals and ideas of engagement season after season. Ideas are generated, photo shoots are executed, media is bought, pictures are printed, websites designed, stores are updated, packaging created, direct mailers are delivered and the excitement continues.

How many of these ideas are actually new? How many times are garments recreated? Is fashion ever original? How many unique and innovative images and campaigns can be created year after year? Or is repetition reinvention? Are familiar designs and a recognizable aesthetic the keys to a successful brand identity and, ultimately, longevity? Does recognizing a brand’s past help build a solid future? Or does it matter at all?

My thesis is rapidly approaching and the process of research has begun. These are the questions my I will attempt to answer by exploring the value and meaning of corporate archives in today’s fashion industry. It will also take a look at principles and practices—how to build them, what the benefits are and the cultural effects they may or may not.

Creating archives for non-fashion related corporations has been well documented, dissected and debated. There are countless journals and associations related to the research and development of business archives. Many of these journals, paper and articles are going to help serve as research for my thesis. Yet despite the growing interest in creating fashion-related archives, evidenced by the number of diverse brands that have existing archives, there remains a dearth of information on the development, utilization, management of these private libraries. In addition, business and historical archiving, as well as library science are void of fashion specific information technology.

Creating Digital History has served as a wellspring of information, rich in resources and platforms that will benefit my thesis and possibly the end use of creating a real archive for my current employer. The use of Omeka as an archival tool, while not the most fluid or advanced interface, is basic and solid in its straightforward and uncomplicated user experience. I can clearly see how this could translate into a similar system for a fashion company and the development of a corporate repository. All of the information combined in this course has given me hope and confidence that a universal, yet customizable, archiving system for fashion companies can easily be developed. Now bring on my thesis!


[1] Whitehead, Shannon. “5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know.” Huffington Post. October 19, 2014. 

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As the twenty first century pushes onward, the need to preserve the web gets greater and greater. Web archivists have compared the loss of the resources of the internet to the loss of the Library of Alexandria, without web archives, there would be a tragic loss of a huge gap of our knowledge of this current period of time (Kalev H. Leetaru). Resources like the Internet Archive and the International Internet Preservation Consortium have taken the lead in attempting to preserve the ‘Net, but smaller institutions, like NYU’s own Tamiment Library, have been bolstering their own collections with web archives. For the past year plus, I have been working on Tamiment’s web archiving collections. Making something public on internet doesn’t necessarily make it accessible, so I’m offering a how-to so researchers can use resources that are otherwise not found on the live web. Let’s get started, shall we?
First, access Tamiment Library’s homepage, which is found here. Then click on the tiny little button which says “Web Archive Project.” (You can also access the web archives through the finding aids portal).

(click to view larger)

The next page takes you to a link to the entire list of web collections that Tamiment has gathered (or captured, as we say in web archivist-speak). There are two ways to access the web archives. Either by clicking “The Tamiment Library Web Archive” or by scrolling down and clicking on each collection directly (this page, unfortunately, has not been updated with each current live web collection).  We are going to click the former.

The next page takes you to the complete listing of our web archives. Tamiment uses a service aptly called the Web Archiving Service (WAS) created by the California Digital Library (CDL).  We are going to look at the archived website of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, located at 339 Lafayette Street in Greenwich Village, the subject of my digital archive. This website was initially captured in our Other Left Activism collection before we created our Housing collection. Unfortunately, due to the parameters of WAS and unlike analog collections, you can’t just move the folder. So it remains in Other Left Activism. After scrolling down and clicking Other Left Activism, you are brought to the main page of the collection, seen here. This page provides a brief description of what has been captured in this collection, as well as some statistics and a search tool.  The search tool actually searches for words in the archived websites, but only for that specific collection. After that we click “Site List.”

Here, you can browse the collection’s websites. Other Left Activism gives a good picture into the Tamiment Library’s collecting policy, the types of websites in this collection range from housing rights to arts and the cultural left to human rights groups to feminist groups to unions. After browsing, hit page three and at the top of the page will be the website we will be examining, the Metropolitan Council on Housing. Each website comes with a short description, in addition to a list captures and the live link. Clicking directly on the name of the website will take you directly to the most recent capture. Captures become “live” 6 months after it is first captured, due to privacy reasons.  We are going to click on the earliest capture from 2009.

The archived website displays how the website looked in 2009. The drop-down menu at the top right hand corner of the page lets the user navigate between crawls of the same website. Links with the same base URL are usually clickable and the user can navigate the site freely. Lets look at the old site and the live web site simultaneously:



Although these are just screenshots, it is immediately apparent that the website has changed drastically in the last three years. The format has completely changed, as a matter of fact, by looking at the old crawls, the formatting has changed within the last 6 months. Without the web archives, not only would be lose the content, but would not be able to track the change of the website, especially when it often provides information to the public that is not often printed.

Unfortunately, the web archiving service is beset with issues. Captures are not always perfect. Often, depending how they are embedded, youTube videos, RSS feeds, and other embedded information does not capture, and it appears broken on the page, which you can see at the Paper Tiger archived website. Sometimes it just renders as text or does not captures at all, likely because the website blocks robots, which includes the software we use to crawl the websites, like WILPF.

However, I believe the pros outweigh the cons. The web archive provides ephemeral, contemporary material on organizations that would otherwise be lost.  Even in an incomplete form, it is still more valuable than having a void of information on labor and left movements of the twenty-first century. When the vast majority of information that used to be analog is now digital, it is important to capture this information before it is too late and lost to future researchers.

Feel free to browse our web archives, suggest new websites, and ask questions. I plan on using some of these archived websites for my digital archive, I hope you consider using archived websites as sources for your own research.

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