Center for History and New Media to Help Preserve “Dot-Com Era” Digital Materials

Posted: October 4, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

George Mason’s Center for History and New Media (CHNM) is one of several partner institutions participating in a grant from the Library of Congress to preserve at-risk digital material for future generations. Focusing on the “Birth of the Dot Com Era,” CHNM and its partners were granted $220,000 to start the project, which will preserve materials from the American business culture during the early years of the commercialization of the Internet, 1994-2001.

This award is one of eight components of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program through the Library of Congress. According to a press release, the library recently awarded more than $14.9 million to eight institutions and their partners to identify, collect, and preserve digital materials within a nationwide digital preservation infrastructure. “Because there is usually no analog (physical) version of materials created solely in digital formats, these so-called ‘born-digital’ materials are at much greater risk of either being lost and no longer available as historical resources, or of being altered—preventing future researchers from studying them in their original form,” the release stated. “Millions of digital materials, such as web sites mounted in the early days of the Internet, are already lost—either completely or in their original versions.”

CHNM is a partner institution for the award led by the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business. Other partners are Gallivan, Gallivan and O’Melia LLC; Snyder, Miller, Orton Lawyers LLP; and the Internet Archive. The group will focus on capturing the history of the dot-com era, including images, files, and documents that were part of the booming tech industry, and legal records of many of the now-defunct startup companies.

Other institutions will collect materials related to public television broadcasts, political activities and movements, opinion polls and other social science issues, Southern culture and history, and digital geospatial data resources. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library will lead one of the research awards to determine which digital materials to capture and preserve, as not all digital material can or should be preserved.

“We are delighted to be part of this important initiative,” says Dan Cohen, assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History and director of research projects at CHNM. “This grant recognizes the pioneering work of CHNM in collecting history online. Preserving and accessing digital records will be a critical part of doing history in the 21st century and beyond, and CHNM is tremendously excited to be at the forefront of this research.”

More information about the project can be found at

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