Where Goverment Sites Go to Die

A letter I sent to the NT Daily, the student newspaper of the University of North Texas:

As a UNT alumnus, I was pleased to read in the Washington Post on Oct. 21 that the university library is archiving federal government Web sites that are taken offline.

As described in the article, the library's government documents department publishes the CyberCemetery, a collection of defunct agencies and commissions.

Because the Web is so transitory, a considerable amount of material of legitimate public interest disappears from public view each year. In 20 years we might have lost more source material from the Clinton administration than the Kennedy administration, simply because no one thought to save electronic documents before hitting the Delete button. I ran into this problem while researching the government site of former House Rep. James Traficant. The morning after his expulsion from Congress for ethical violations, hundreds of Web pages were deleted without warning and no one at the Office of the Clerk could explain whether it has an archival policy for material on the House Web server, a collection of 110,000 documents.

I'd like to compliment Cathy Nelson Hartman of the school library's government documents department for having the foresight to create this project. I hope that UNT can secure the funds to expand it in the future.

Rogers Cadenhead
1991 UNT alumnus

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