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Goodbye, Aus-Archivists: Listservs and the Commitment to Digital Preservation

With emphasis added:


No doubt you have been wondering what has happened to the Aus-Archivists List-Serv. Unfortunately in upgrading the Australian Society of Archivists communications and technologies, the Aus-Archivists list-serv has suffered a terminal illness. The old list cannot be resurrected.

In some respects its demise is somewhat timely as the ASA is now capitalising on new and exciting Web 2.0 technologies and tools. One such tool is Ning. This is more collaborative than the list-serv and is a lot more fun and engaging. The bonus is that it will not clog up your work email when debate is really happening and you won’t get messages from your IT section telling you that you have exceeded your in-box limit.

On behalf of the ASA Council I invite you to be part of ArchivesLive! This is the on-line network for people interested in Australian Archives and Australian Archivists. You’ll be able to blog there, connect with people, put up papers that you find to be interesting, put up a photo of yourself and so on. The content depends upon you and your enthusiasm. I know that there is a great deal of enthusiasm out there and I can’t wait to see what Australian Archivists come up with. If you aren’t an ASA member you can still connect with us (although of course we’d love you to be a member).

So go to and be part of ArchivesLive! Show the rest of the archival world what Australian Archivists are all about. Show the world your passion, creativity, concern and above all your sense of fun.

The ASA Council and National Office have many more exciting communication tools up our sleeves. They’ll be coming your way before you know it.

Pat Jackson
Australian Society of Archivists

While in some ways, I have to applaud ASA for trying to leverage social networking sites like Ning, this message raises questions for me rather than getting me excited to try out ArchivesLive. What, precisely, was the "terminal illness," and why can't the list be resurrected? Was the data lost?  At the moment, it seems that not only the list is unable to be resurrected. The server on which the web-accessible version of Aus-Archivists was hosted on,, seems to no longer have a DNS entry, which leads me to believe that it's all "lost."

I have to say that I'm not entirely confident about the possibilities of ArchivesLive, or Ning in general. Listserves are simple, and were seemingly a good way to "preserve" (or at least "maintain") a record of interesting, engaging discussions. There's an uncomfortable irony in the fact that previous home of Aus-Archivists is still serving up all the previous discussions until the point of its migration to an ASA-controlled system in 2003. Certainly, some fantastic discussions from the post-migration period (i.e., 2003-October 26, 2010) are now "lost," or at least dispersed among sites like the Internet Archive, web caches, and people's individual email accounts. Furthermore, is Ning suitable, given that Archiveteam placed them on their Deathwatch page earlier this year? Last April, Techcrunch announced that Ning had laid off 40% of their staff and removed the free option for hosting, causing competitors such as Posterous, Grouply, and to announce migration programs for Ning networks.

In the meantime, what is to be done? I would hope for a larger announcement about this somewhere on the ASA website; for what it's worth, there wasn't even an announcement acknowledging the lapse in Listserv service on the ASA site despite the Twitter announcement. I'd also like to see some recovery efforts start to happen to begin reconstructing the postings from Aus-Archivists, but I'm not sure about the best way to do this. The largest brute force method would be to hammer on web caches using something like Warrick. We could try reconstructing or exporting the list from the server, if ASA went along with that possibility. Finally, we could develop some sort of centralized means for people to share whatever parts of the run they kept within email accounts or files persisting elsewhere. There is continuing value in maintaining these discussions, as efforts like Driftline's hosting of Spoon Collective lists formerly hosted by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and the hosting of the 1993-2006 A&A list run by



  • 💬 Alex at November 18, 2010, 14:41 UTC:

    So, a bunch of archivists experts lost their archive as well as their real-time nemesis? Ouch. And, uh, WTF?

  • 💬 Eric Lease Morgan at November 18, 2010, 15:50 UTC:

    I agree with your sentiments, and I think preservationists have the most difficult job in Library Land --

    Furthermore, it will be increasingly difficult to do this work as more content "moves to the 'cloud'". If you don't physically have it, then you can't curate it. And if it is in a format other than plain text, then you dramatically increase the risk of not being able to read it in the future.