Mini-contest: Archives, history & the Web–all your favorite things!

This comes out of a conversation on Twitter this morning in which Mark Matienzo (@anarchivist) said that as far as he knows the Oregon State Archives was the first U.S. archives on the Web. This is demonstrated by this article from the Spring of 1994.

So, here’s your challenge–was there a U.S. archives on Web before the Oregon State Archives?

And, of course, we’d love to hear from our readers about the first non-US archives on the Web. Earlier than 1994?

And, just out of curiosity, do you know when your archives got its first web page? Do you have any evidence of what it looked like?

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19 thoughts on “Mini-contest: Archives, history & the Web–all your favorite things!”

  1. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    According to The Maryland State Archives: “The Archives WEB server was placed in service February 28, 1995. Our platform is a SUN Sparc5 workstation. Communication is provided via a frame relay (768 CIR) connection to the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. The service provider for the Pratt’s State Library Network is BBN Planet, formerly SuraNet. ”

    I remember reading the A&A list via its newsgroup in the early 1990s when I worked at Johns Hopkins. I don’t think there was a Hopkins “website” when I left in 1993, but there certainly was some kind of intranet that connected the parts of the JHU campus.

  2. From the folks on Twitter–just in case they don’t get around to posting here:

    @save4use: 1995 version wasn’t captured, but the 1999 Bentley site still had 1995 copyright date.

    @angelaossar UTSA Archives apparently emerged on the web in 1998. (via Wayback) Three cheers for @internetarchive !

    @ammeveleigh in the UK we had

    ammeveleigh brief history of UK archives on internet at pioneers in univ sector; 1st local archives Somerset 1995

    @jcarletonoh OhioU Arch & Spec Coll had FAs on gopher in early 1994, Web in 1995? Ohio Hist. Soc. (state archives) 1 bad page in 1995, much more in 1996.

    @jcarletonoh I also had priv of creating 1st SAA site. Stan & Brenda Gunn, Laura N?, & me (UT-Austin stud chap). Lee Miller encouraged us. more….

    @jcarletonoh 1st SAA site 2: Put Netscape.exe & HTML on floppy & mailed 2 Chicago. Talked SAA staff thru install & pitched Council by phone. I was giddy!

    @jcarletonoh 1st SAA site 3: Council seemed hesitant but agreed to trial. We maintained. 1995 SAA had booth in exhibit hall w/ me demo-ing. What fun.

    @Michigania@archivesnext, MI was 1995

  3. You would think that archivists would have learned to stay away from the question of “firsts” just from their reference experience. But for the record I checked some old Babbage Institute newsletters, and we had announced in Fall of 1994 that we had loaded all of our finding aid on an Internet Gopher, a long forgotten piece of software developed at the University of Minnesota (see Somewhat before that time I remember being at an RLG conference at Brown, and suggesting to Carla Sommers that we should compile a list of archivists on electronic mail. My first email address? BBruemmer@umnacvx.bitnet in 1988.

  4. Sorry, was in a rush earlier…

    Perhaps being archivists we should be more enquiring of the informational value of those early websites! I remember being asked to write a review article for the Society of Archivists’ Journal in the UK on record office websites, in I think 1997 or 1998. I turned the idea down because there appeared to be nothing interesting to ‘review’ as such – by that time there were plenty of UK archives with a web presence of some kind, but with one or two exceptions, the only information published was the office’s postal address and possibly some directions. The more advanced reproduced the text of their office leaflets – exciting stuff.

  5. Ah the heady days of 1994… As far as I know the Australian Science Archives Project created the first Australian archives website. We started in ’94 with some space on a server at the Australian National University, but set up our own own server (at the end of a blazingly fast 128kbps data line) early in ’95. Some of the story is here:

    In 1994 Bright Sparcs — our biographical/archival register of more than 2000 Australian scientists) also went online. When I say database, I of course mean thousands of little static html files generated out of an Access db. We developed varrious other resources as well, including the grandly titled WWW Virtual Library for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine which — here comes a lame claim to fame — was named by PC Magazine (in 1995 I think) as one of the top 100 sites on the web. Obviously competition was a bit less intense back in those days.

    In 1996 we created the web version of the Directory of Archives in Australia and I included a list of ‘archives on the web’. The Internet Archive has a version of this list from 1997:

    The earliest version of my websites have been lost I think. Perhaps that’s a good thing given my limited design abilities and over-reliance on clip art. The Internet Archives has 1997 versions which had been remade with the help of a friendly graphic designer.

  6. The Wayback Machine first caught the Heard Museum’s website in October 1996. I’m sure it was not the first page, but it’s the oldest I know of that I published.

  7. I remember sitting up late into the night in the computer lab at SI (then SILS) at Univ. of Michigan with Tom LaPorte in Spring 1994 trying to figure out how to get the whole HTML ismap stuff to work on an early photograph of the UMich campus. It took us about 2 days of e-mailing anyone we could find on the Web who had managed to get ismap to work trying to figure it all out, and then convincing the SILS technical person that we wouldn’t bring down the school’s entire server if he let us put the server-side file needed to effect the ismap redirect. Hard to believe that was only 15 years ago! The Bentley definitely had a web site in 1994, and I owe a lot to Fran Blouin and Bill Wallach for letting a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears grad students “borrow” old UM building photographs and take them down to West Engineering where, at that time, one of the handful of scanners on the UMich campus was installed. At some point during 2004, Anne Gilliland-Swetland hooked Tom and me up with the folks at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library to develop an early document-driven web exhibit called “A Day in the Life of the President” which really pushed the technology envelope by including about 4 seconds of video footage of the last helicopter taking off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy during the fall of Saigon. Watch the video (, it’s a hoot in light of what we’re used to today. Yikes, this thread makes me feel like a geezer!

  8. (Well, I thought I’d already submitted this, but appears something went awry.)

    The first Heard Museum web page in Internet Archive. I’m sure it’s not the first (I’d even gotten sophisticated enough to put a revised date in the bottom). This was probably on a Novell server, but we soon migrated to Linux/Apache. Being tasked with getting the webserver up required me to learn things like TCP/IP and DNS, and that may have been a real career shift for me.

    I know Rob Spindler and I wanted to get finding aids up on a Gopher (not technically the web), but I’m not sure we ever got permission.

  9. The earliest existing page for the Utah State Archives I can find is dated August 14, 1996 but the first web site content was posted a year before on August 15, 1995. The Wayback machine has a version from April 1997:

    Interestingly, the page at announces the online web database connection to our content management system that we still use, for example at

  10. Thanks for all the great responses, and my apologies for the ones that were delayed in posting. Comments with links (esp more than one) tend to end up in the spam filter and that can be a very scary place to look at! But I’ll check it more frequently from now on, promise.

    Again–looks like this could be a good research topic for someone …

  11. The SLAC Archives and History Office’s first web site went live at the late date of 1997. We still have the code around here somewhere. History of the site is part of the current site The sites I remember using as inspirations were the archives for Bowdoin, Duke, and UNH.

    I say late date because our parent institution, SLAC, had the first web site in the United States which went up on December 12, 1991 and provided access to databases important to the global high energy physics community created by the SLAC library. Creator of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee called the SLAC site the “killer app” for the web. By allowing members of the particle physics community easier access to a heavily used database of scientific literature, the SLAC web site revealed the potential of the web to particle physicists, and from there it spread to the entire world. Physicists had remote access to SPIRES-HEP before the web, and the remote SPIRES technology allowed SLAC to quickly adapt to the web, making access to SPIRES-HEP easier for everyone, and opening up SPIRES HEP information to the world.

    I suspect that if this were happening today, changes in government and culture being what they are, Paul and Louise and the other wizards would not have had the freedom to develop and innovate the way they did then. When folks question funding pure science, the existence of the web should be pointed to as an example of what comes out of such aspirations. And the web was just a by-product!

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