The advent of the Web has had a revolutionary impact on how we acquire, share and publish information. In fact, it has a fundamental impact on our daily lives that increasingly take place "on the Web." However, this increasing dependence on the Web comes at a price: the ease of publishing on the Web also results in the easy loss of information---Web content tends to be ephemeral.
The WebART project addresses the problem of our future cultural heritage. Globally this has been addressed head on by the Internet Archive, now supplemented by many national initiatives. Web archiving has so far concentrated primarily at preservation, and much less on the use of the archived Web material. However, the chosen selection and archiving strategies of Web material will have a crucial impact on their future value as cultural heritage. Hence there is an urgent need to understand how the Web archive will be used, not only in superficial exploration, but especially as the object of study of scientific researchers.
The crucial issue, and the main research problem of the WebART project, is to critically assess the value of Web archives for realistic research scenarios, and develop information access tools and methods that maximize the archive's utility for research. Our approach is to conduct actual Web archive research hand-in-hand with the development of Web archive access tools tailored to the realistic research scenarios. Within the project, our focus is on the use-case of a humanities researcher, although tools will no doubt be useful for other use-cases as well.
A detailed project description can be found here.