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Web Archives

Current version: v1.2.0

See below for information on running these notebooks in a live computing environment. Or just take them for a spin using Binder.

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Section sponsor

The Web Archives section of the GLAM Workbench is sponsored by the British Library.


We tend to think of a web archive as a site we go to when links are broken – a useful fallback, rather than a source of new research data. But web archives don't just store old web pages, they capture multiple versions of web resources over time. Using web archives we can observe change – we can ask historical questions. This collection of notebooks is intended to help historians, and other researchers, frame those questions by revealing what sort of data is available, how to get it, and what you can do with it.

Web Archives share systems and standards, making it much easier for researchers wanting to get their hands on useful data. These notebooks focus on four particular web archives: the UK Web Archive, the Australian Web Archive (National Library of Australia ), the New Zealand Web Archive (National Library of New Zealand), the Internet Archive, and the UK Goverment Web Archive. However, the tools and approaches here could be easily extended to other web archives.

Web archives are huge, and access is often limited for legal reasons. These notebooks focus on data that is readily accessible and able to be used without the need for special equipment. They use existing APIs to get data in manageable chunks. But many of the examples demonstrated can also be scaled up to build substantial datasets for analysis – you just have to be patient!

These notebooks are a starting point that I hope will encourage researchers to investigate the possibilities of web archives in more detail. They're intended to compliment the fabulous work being by projects such as Archives Unleashed to open web archives to new research uses.

The development of these notebooks was supported by the International Internet Preservation Consortium's Discretionary Funding Programme 2019-2020, with the participation of the British Library, the National Library of Australia, and the National Library of New Zealand. Thanks all!

For more information on web archives projects, training, technologies, and standards see the Awesome Web Archiving list.

Types of data

As noted, we're focusing here on on web archive data that's freely available through APIs. There's also data available through data dumps, such as the JISC UK Web Domain Dataset (1996-2013) and the annual web harvests from Common Crawl, but they tend to be huge.

Timegates, Timemaps, and Mementos

Systems supporting the Memento protocol provide machine-readable information about web archive captures, even if other APIs are not available. In this notebook we'll look at the way the Memento protocol is supported across four web archive repositories – the UK Web Archive, the National Library of Australia, the National Library of New Zealand, and the Internet Archive.

Exploring the Internet Archive's CDX API

Some web archives provide indexes of the web pages they've archived through an API. These CDX APIs can be queried by a number of fields including capture date, url, and mimetype. This notebook looks in detail at the data provided by the Internet Archive's CDX API.

Comparing CDX APIs

This notebook documents differences between the Internet Archive's Wayback CDX API and the PyWb CDX API, such as those available from the UK Web Archive, and the Australian Web Archive.

Timemaps vs CDX APIs

Both Timemaps and CDX APIs can give us a list of captures from a particular web page, so I was wondering what the difference was. The answer, from looking at the Internet Archive, is not much.

Harvesting data and creating datasets

Get the archived version of a page closest to a particular date

To get the archived version of a page closest to a particular date we can use the Memento API. The functions in this notebook smooth out these variations to provide a (mostly) consistent interface to the UK Web Archive, Australian Web Archive, New Zealand Web Archive, and the Internet Archive. They could be easily modified to work with other Memento-compliant repositories.

Find all the archived versions of a web page

You can find all the archived versions of a web page by requesting a Timemap from a Memento-compliant repository. If the repository has a CDX API, you can get much the same data by doing an exact url search. This code and examples in this notebook help you to work with both.

Harvesting collections of text from archived web pages

This notebook helps you assemble datasets of text extracted from all available captures of archived web pages. You can then feed these datasets to the text analysis tool of your choice to analyse changes over time.

Harvesting data about a domain using the IA CDX API

In this notebook we'll look at how we can get domain level data from the IA CDX API. In most other notebooks using the CDX API we've harvested data into memory and then saved to disk later on. Because we're potentially harvesting much larger quantities of data, we're going to reverse this and save harvested data to disk as we download it.

Find and explore Powerpoint presentations from a specific domain

This notebook helps you find, download, and explore all the presentation files captured from a particular domain, like It includes a series of processing steps to: harvest capture data; remove duplicates from capture data and download files; convert Powerpoint files to PDFs; extract screenshots and text from the PDFs; save metadata, screenshots, and text into an SQLite database; open the SQLite db in Datasette for exploration.

Exploring subdomains in the whole of

Most of the notebooks in this repository work with small slices of web archive data. In this notebook we'll scale things up a bit to try and find all of the subdomains that have existed in the domain. As in other notebooks, we'll obtain the data by querying the Internet Archive's CDX API. The only real difference is that it will take some hours to harvest all the data. Once we have the data we'll do some analysis, and visualise the domain hierarchy as a dendrogram.

Exploring change over time

Compare two versions of an archived web page

This notebook demonstrates a number of different ways of comparing versions of archived web pages. Just choose a repository, enter a url, and select two dates to see comparisons based on: page metadata, basic statistics such as file size and number of words, numbers of internal and external links, cosine similarity of text, line by line differences in text or code, and screenshots.

Observing change in a web page over time

This notebook explores what we can find when you look at all captures of a single page over time.

Create and compare full page screenshots from archived web pages

This notebook makes it easy to create a full page screenshot from an archived web page. You can add additional screenshots to compare captures, versions, and pages.

Using screenshots to visualise change in a page over time

This notebook helps you visualise changes in a web page by generating full page screenshots for each year from the captures available in an archive. You can then combine the individual screenshots into a single composite image.

Display changes in the text of an archived web page over time

This notebook displays changes in the text content of a web page over time. It retrieves a list of available captures from a Memento Timemap, then compares each capture with its predecessor, displaying changes side-by-side.

Find when a piece of text appears in an archived web page

This notebook helps you find when a particular piece of text appears in, or disappears from, a web page. Using Memento Timemaps, it gets a list of available captures from the selected web archive. It then searches each capture for the desired text, displaying the results.

Data and images

Harvest of unique urls from the domain

This is a dataset of (mostly unique) urls in the domain harvested using the IA CDX API.

Unique subdomains of split into components

This is a dataset of unique subdomains within the domain.

Unique subdomains of in SURT format

This is a dataset of unique subdomains within the domain.

Circular dendrograms of subdomains

This is a collection of visualisations of subdomains under

Run these notebooks

There are a number of different ways to use these notebooks. Binder is quickest and easiest, but it doesn't save your data. I've listed a number of options below from easiest to most complicated (requiring more technical knowledge). See the running Jupyter notebooks page for more details and additional options.

Using Binder

Launch on Binder

Click on the button above to launch the notebooks in this repository using the Binder service (it might take a little while to load). This is a free service, but note that sessions will close if you stop using the notebooks, and no data will be saved. Make sure you download any changed notebooks or harvested data that you want to save.

See Using Binder for more information.

Using Reclaim Cloud

Launch on Reclaim Cloud

Reclaim Cloud is a paid hosting service, aimed particularly at supported digital scholarship in the humanities. Unlike Binder, the environments you create on Reclaim Cloud will save your data – even if you switch them off! To run this repository on Reclaim Cloud for the first time:

  • Create a Reclaim Cloud account and log in.
  • Click on the button above to start the installation process.
  • A dialogue box will ask you to set a password, this is used to limit access to your Jupyter installation.
  • Sit back and wait for the installation to complete!
  • Once the installation is finished click on the 'Open in Browser' button of your newly created environment (note that you might need to wait a few minutes before everything is ready).

See Using Reclaim Cloud for more information.

Using the Nectar Cloud

Screenshot of GLAM Workbench applicatsion

The Nectar Research Cloud (part of the Australian Research Data Commons) provides cloud computing services to researchers in Australian and New Zealand universities. Any university-affiliated researcher can log on to Nectar and receive up to 6 months of free cloud computing time. And if you need more, you can apply for a specific project allocation.

The GLAM Workbench is available in the Nectar Cloud as a pre-configured application. This means you can get it up and going without worrying about the technical infrastructure – just fill in a few details and you're away! To create an instance of this repository in the Nectar Cloud:

  • Log in to the Nectar Dashboard using your university credentials.
  • From the Dashboard choose Applications -> Browse Local.
  • Enter 'GLAM' in the filter box and hit Enter, you should see the GLAM Workbench application.
  • Click on the GLAM Workbench application's Quick Deploy button.
  • Step through the various configuration options. Some options are only available if you have a dedicated project allocation.
  • When asked to select a GLAM Workbench repository, choose 'Web archives' from the dropdown list.
  • Complete the configuration and deploy your GLAM Workbench instance.
  • The url to access your instance will be displayed once it's ready. Click on the url!

See Using Nectar for more information.

Using Docker

You can use Docker to run a pre-built computing environment on your own computer. It will set up everything you need to run the notebooks in this repository. This is free, but requires more technical knowledge – you'll have to install Docker on your computer, and be able to use the command line.

  • Install Docker Desktop.
  • Create a new directory for this repository and open it from the command line.
  • From the command line, run the following command:
    docker run -p 8888:8888 --name web-archives -v "$PWD":/home/jovyan/work repo2docker-entrypoint jupyter lab --ip --NotebookApp.token='' --LabApp.default_url='/lab/tree/index.ipynb'
  • It will take a while to download and configure the Docker image. Once it's ready you'll see a message saying that Jupyter Notebook is running.
  • Point your web browser to

See Using Docker for more information.


Cite as

Sherratt, Tim; Jackson, Andrew & Bickford, Jake. (2023). GLAM-Workbench/web-archives (version v1.2.0). Zenodo.

Section sponsor

The Web Archives section of the GLAM Workbench is sponsored by the British Library.