Last month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “the state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.”
The web page in question is http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greatlakes/climatechange.html. The article gives links to both the current and old text as archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of web contact back to 1996.
What the Journal Sentinel article didn’t mention is that the archived site is also available through an archive of websites curated by Wisconsin Historical Society. The archive contains sites from “state agencies and local governments, political campaigns for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races and related social media, topical issues such as mining and organic agriculture and selected online publications.”
According to the Historical Society,
This effort aims to provide permanent access to websites and other digital materials for researchers and the general public. By harvesting the content of these websites through the “Archive-It” subscription service, the Wisconsin Historical Society collects, preserves, and makes accessible these electronic publications and records for public use.
What’s the difference between the Wayback Machine and sites collected by the Historical Society you might ask? Thoughtful curation and searchability. From the Historical Society FAQ:
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various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching.
So – if you’re looking for an archived version for a particular URL, stick with the Wayback machine which will include any sites archived by the Historical Society. However, if you want to determine if particular text ever appeared on those sites, then give the Historical Society web archives a try.