A Herculean Task: Archiving Canadian Government Websites

Gone are the days of printed pamphlets, flyers, booklets, and reports describing government programs and information — most of it is now available exclusively online. While more citizens now have greater access to government information, it has become increasingly difficult to preserve this information. Content on government websites is constantly changing without warning or reference to the obsolete information and, worse, some government sites are removed from the web completely.

To ensure that most of the information found on Canadian government websites is not lost, U of T Libraries have been archiving them on a regular basis. This effort began in 2013 after the federal government shut down numerous government websites with little warning. Realizing the information on the sites was going to be lost, academic and government librarians across the country began archiving the websites themselves.

Emboldened by this effort, U of T Libraries purchased and compiled captures of earlier Canadian government websites from the Internet Archive and continues to capture government sites on a regular basis. Tirelessly led by librarians Sam-Chin Li and Nicholas Worby, U of T Libraries actively maintain an archive of Canadian government websites from December 2007 onward.*

While they are eager to add more government sites to the archive, Sam-Chin and Nicholas have been encountering copyright issues in archiving them. As these issues are rectified, more sites will be included in the collection.

We are grateful for Sam-Chin and Nicholas’s efforts in preserving Canadian government websites. While government information can form a large part of legal research, preserving government information affects us more widely including helping to ensure government accountability and a more democratic society.

U of T Libraries currently maintains the following government information archives:

 

*Library and Archives Canada started archiving government websites in 2013, however, they are not publicly available.

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