Websites can be thought of as a form of ephemera. That is material that is used for only a short period of time and is important at that time. A particular type of print ephemera is material that has been used to sway political decisions often in the form of mail deliveries or as handouts at elections. Since the birth of the internet people or organisations wishing to push a political angle have also used the internet in a similar way. They create websites, usually quite small ones, which put forward their view on an issue in an attempt to sway the national or local debate. The National Library has always attempted to collect this type of material when it appears in print and online through Pandora.
One of the most ephemeral of these web materials is the protest site. These are generally set up to dispute a single issue, often a government decision or a corporate stoush, and can disappear as quickly as they arrive once an issue is resolved. Over the years Pandora has archived many protest sites on some of the burning issues of the day.
The uranium mine, Jabiluka in the Northern Territory became the focus of a major protest in 1998 when activists from around the country blockaded the mine. The blockaders set up a site to provide information on the issue to the broader community. The Pandora team identified the site in January 1999 and later received permission to archive it. However, when the site was gathered in March 1998 the content was not able to be harvested successfully. By the time staff came back to try again the site had been taken offline. Sites are often unable to be archived for a variety of reasons, especially when harvesting was a new process for the Library. But in this case, some months later staff were able to secure a disc of the content direct from the publisher and we now have a copy of the site.
Another site called, The Facts of Jabiluka, was also selected to be included in the archive but permission could not be obtained before it was taken down. Again it looked like another protest site would be missed, however, the content was later found copied to a different site, “Welcome to Mirrar online”. This site was selected, permission was received and a successful copy made. This site contains many features common of the early web such as animated gifs and a link to a version of the site that supports higher resolution monitors (800×600!) with an area called “Facts” with the original sites content.
Two years later the Sydney Olympics (2000) was widely acclaimed by broad sections of the community however not all were so enthusiastic and websites were created to reflect specific community concerns. Pandora recorded these in its 2000 Olympic collection under the banner Anti-Olympic Campaigns and Activities. All of the sites taken no longer exist on the live web adding to the importance of these copies. The sites cover a range of topics from, watching property rental sites to protesting the stadium on Bondi Beach.
By the beginning of 2003 a war in Iraq was becoming more likely. In this environment a number of websites were created to protest Australia’s involvement. Sites were created by various existing organizations, such as the Australian Labor party and Greenpeace, to oppose the war. OneVoice for Peace was set up to capture signatures by Australians against the war. The site was gathered once in Feb 2003 and then gathered again in April in order to show the growth in the number of signatures. The sites contained many famous Australians names in the signature list and their images online
Moving forward some years to 2010 and the Rudd government announced a new tax on resources. The tax would impact mainly on the Australian mining companies. The Minerals Council of Australia set up a site shortly after called, Keep Mining Strong. We attempted to archive the site but were not able to secure permission in time. The site was removed quickly after Kevin Rudd was replaced with Julia Gillard and a new mining tax was announced. The only record of this site is several copies held in the internet archive. These copies, though displaying much of the written content, lack the look and feel of the original site due to the lack of style sheets and image files.
Later the Minerals Council set up a new site to show the importance of mining in Australia. This site, called “Australian mining. This is our story”, was captured and archived by Pandora.
Soon after the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union set up a parody site that copied the original site except with its own slant. We have been able to obtain permission for both sites and they can be used by future researchers to compare this particular part of the Australian history.
In 2011 Qantas was in the middle of an industrial dispute with unions. Both sides developed online websites to promote their cause. Qantas began a site called Keep Qantas Flying. This site did not stay live for long and we were not able to secure permission before it was removed after the dispute was settled. It was originally held at the URL below which now re-directs to the main Qantas website.
In a similar way to the Mining Tax example above a mock site was set up by the unions, it was also called Keep Qantas flying and was hosted on a similar URL.
We were able to secure a permission for this site as it stayed live a lot longer (and is in fact still live now a year later at the time of the writing of this blog). The two sites looked very similar and having a copy of one does allow us to imagine what was contained on the other (in a similar way to the Jeff.com site in this blog post).
Over the years the Pandora team has tried to capture protest sites at the time they were important though this is not always possible. Print ephemera not collected at the time of the event can be later sourced through donations or purchases but if we miss a site at the time of the dispute we may miss it forever. If a site is missed that gives one side of argument in a dispute, this may give future researchers a skewed view of the history of the time, but it isn’t for want of trying.