Dead government Web sites haunt the CyberCemetery

University, GPO team up to create archive


Remember the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq between the time Saddam Hussein's regime toppled and the creation of a new permanent government?

How about the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond, an effort during the administration of President George W. Bush to implement the administration's space-travel plans?

Or the National Drought Policy Commission, which existed from 1998 to 2000?

The University of North Texas has archived the complete Web sites of these and other defunct federal agencies and commissions in an archive it calls the CyberCemetery. Visitors can browse all the available archives or search for a specific one and read all of the documents and other resources those bodies ever published.

According to the site, the University of North Texas Libraries and the Government Printing Office created the archive under the Federal Depository Library Program. The site's earliest users named it the CyberCemetery.

The site includes the Web site of the 9/11 Commission, including a free copy of its final report, along with video and audio records of the commission's hearings. It also includes the records of the board that investigated the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia, and the shuttle program's Return to Flight Task Group.

In all, there are more than 50 agency and commission sites archived in the CyberCemetery.

"You don't have to be a professional government researcher to benefit from these online archives," wrote Brent LaMaire, in an article at OhMyGov.com. "Anyone doing a paper on the Child Online Protection Act of 2000 would certainly have interest in the COPA Commission's Web site, which the Act established, but since that Web site no longer exists, without CyberCemetery, there would be no easy way to access the information once available on the Commission's Web site."

According to an Associated Press article, the project was born in the late 1990s, as Clinton-era agency Web sites began to disappear from the Internet.

"It was very early in the Web-publishing era for governments...and these Web sites were just going away," said Cathy Hartman, an assistant dean of libraries at the University, quoted in the AP story. "I began conversations with folks about recapturing the sites and keeping them available for public access."

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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