Claire Newing

Claire Newing

Last updated on 30 October 2023

This blog was written by Claire Newing, Web Archivist at The National Archives (UK), Patricia Falcão, Time-Based Media Conservator at Tate, Sarah Haylett, Archives and Records Management Researcher at Tate and Jane Kennedy, Records Manager at Tate

In 2023 - and for the first time in either of our histories of collaborative practice - Tate approached The National Archives about supplying the first in-house captured microsite to the UK Government Web Archive. This was a near reversal of the usual process, by which the TNA regularly captures Tate’s website as part of their collecting remit to “archive central government information published on the web”.

This collaboration was the result of a few different factors coming together including Tate staff engaged in the Reshaping the Collectible research project choosing the Intermedia microsite as a case study. The microsite features 15 internet artworks commissioned between 2008 - 2012 alongside a body of contextualising essays, interviews and programming. The case study offered an opportunity to examine both the web technologies, structures and ongoing preservation of each artwork and the capture of the whole microsite as an institutional record.

To do the captures, the team used Conifer, a tool developed by Webrecorder and hosted by While the TNA had captured the Intermedia microsite multiple times during both its active and inactive stages, the web pages employed technologies such as Flash and Javascript that were not supported by TNA’s systems. Using Conifer allowed for a more complete capture of the pages’ content and the ability to view these obsolete technologies, when compared to the existing TNA captures.

As Tate does not undertake in-house web archiving, the work was carried out with minimal institutional infrastructure. Conifer was simple enough that Sarah Haylett - working with web-archives for the first time - could easily produce high quality captures. The next logical step was to handover these captures to TNA, which brought up a few (not unexpected challenges), for both institutions. The following reflections represent the views of this process by some of the people involved. Each person was asked to describe their role within the body of work, and which point of collaboration they thought were most valuable. The responses demonstrate the cyclical nature of the interdisciplinary collaborations needed to undertake this work successfully.

Claire Newing, Web Archivist, managed The National Archives’ side of the project with support from Tom Storrar, Head of Web Archiving.

Although TNA had been archiving websites since 2003, this was the first occasion we had been offered WARC files created by a transferring body in terms of its website. Consequently it was quite different to anything I had done before. Our first concern was to ensure both TNA and Tate were clear on their responsibilities both during and after the transfer. We were grateful for the support of colleagues in policy teams who helped us decide that a Memorandum of Understanding would be most appropriate and advised us on what to include. The second major part of the project was to create a workflow to enable Tate to transfer the files safely. Tom and I adapted a workflow we previously used to transfer files from a supplier. We liaised closely with Tate to ensure the process worked for them, for example to ensure it wouldn’t be restricted by corporate IT limitations. The transfer part of the process went well and we intend to use or adapt it for any similar projects. The final major component was to undertake quality assurance checks (QA) on the archived content both before and after it was transferred to our suppliers.

This was quite challenging as several years had passed since the websites were captured. However, Sarah kept detailed notes from her original QA which meant we could cross check to ensure the content was displaying as expected in the live web archive. In future I will ask collaborators to share QA notes and detailed descriptions of what they captured before I do any QA checks. In our day to day work, this isn’t an option as we capture websites remotely and we are not in regular contact with website owners. In conclusion, I originally met Sarah and Patricia at a DPC Web Archiving Working Group event. It was very rewarding working together on such a successful project and it served as a test for any similar projects we might do in future. The archived artworks can be viewed in the UK Government Website here.

Jane Kennedy, Records Manager, Tate

As Tate’s Records Manager, I already had a working relationship with The National Archives, and initiated contact for this collaborative work. I was already familiar with the Net Art commissions and the Intermedia microsite as Sarah Haylett had been a member of my team during the course of the Reshaping the Collectible research project. It was fortuitous that Sarah had the requisite time and funding to be able to focus on this unique and valuable work. It was also imperative to have Tate’s legal department and intellectual property experts contribute to the work.

The hosting of the Intermedia Art microsite by the TNA was a very positive outcome of the ‘Reshaping the Collectible’ research project and an excellent example of collaboration between a variety of specialists. Initial work had involved Sarah reconstituting the Net Art records by contacting former members of Tate’s staff who had been originally involved in the instigation of the project prior to investigating the future of the site which was expiring. I was very pleased that TNA was to participate in this innovative project and grateful for their agreement to undertake their research, without which the microsite would not have been made accessible to an international audience.

Sarah Haylett, Archives and Records Management Researcher, Tate

This piece of work was a continued and rich learning process. While reconstituting the lost Net Art institutional records, it became very clear that the Intermedia Art microsite was a really important part of that narrative. I spent a lot of time referencing both the microsite - which remained live, but unmanaged - and the TNA captures. That the TNA Heretrix captures could not playback the Flash artworks - which Adobe were due to stop supporting - made the work more pressing. The web-archiving was not undertaken with the idea to transfer the WARC files to the TNA, we simply tried to capture as much information as possible and as quickly as possible, in a way that would allow us to still access the artworks. Conifer was a great tool, it was simple to use but time consuming due to each link having to be recorded individually. Artworks like Susan Collins’ Tate in Space or Heath Bunting’s BorderXing had hundreds of individual links. 

My main point of collaboration was with the Time-Based Media Conservation team at Tate who provided so much insight into the complexities of how digital artworks function and need to be cared for. It was a very steep learning curve, but one that gave a lot of insight into the similarities between our practices. The work with TNA was enlightening as they were very forthcoming about not only how something had to be done but why, the importance of checksums and workflows. I also really appreciated being included in the transfer process, and the back and forth discussions that were had around the transfer and deposit agreements that this research created.

Patricia Falcão, Time-Based Media Conservator, Tate

In my role as a Time-Based Media Conservator I am looking at preservation strategies for web-based artworks, rather than online records generally. We are only starting to collect and preserve these types of artworks, and the collaboration with the TNA was a great drive to experiment further with Conifer and other web-preservation tools. The collaboration made us think about how best to use the recordings made by Sarah and how to create and control the quality of the files to be supplied to the TNA. Some of the questions included whether it was better to provide one WARC file with all the records, or if it was better to provide small WARC files with the records as they were recorded, and we ended up providing both. The individual records included artworks and artwork pages, but also pages of interviews, texts and videos that also had connections between them. The individual captures followed Sarah’s logic for capture, but the single WARC meant we could test the links between the different captures.

Following TNA’s quality control process we have added Warcio, another tool developed by Webrecorder, to our toolset. It also gave us a broader understanding of what type of quality checks we should be doing internally to ensure our WARC files are well formed, and we could also assess how the WARC files were played out in TNA’s platform. This knowledge will be very helpful as Tate continues to collect web-based art. Further discussion of the lessons learned from the project will also be available on the project pages in the coming weeks.

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