A digital archive is usually understood as a collection of artefacts that are either a digital version of a physical object or a born digital object. It can a very sophisticated system or just on a single hard drive. Issues of stability, migration to new platforms, durability and searchability are well understood, particularly in regard to items that are deemed of cultural importance and there are many organisations and institutions dedicated to preserving our shared cultural heritage in a standardised and systematic manner, such as the Digital Repository of Ireland.
Generally speaking, archives purposefully record and store that which is considered worth preserving. The internet itself is a kind of archive, but an imperfect one. Cultural ephemera such as memes, Tweets, Facebook posts, emails, comments, tags, etc. are not usually considered worth saving, or are assumed to be saved anyway as they exist on the internet. However, links break, platforms change and websites expire all the time. Some would argue that this kind of material is not outside the realm of what is important to preserve at all, because when viewed as a whole, it is what makes up our culture and efforts should be made to preserve it. The Archive team run by Jason Scott is a ‘loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving out digital heritage’ since 2009. On their website is a whole host of websites, applications and platforms such as Vine, Geocities and Grooveshark that have disappeared or been absorbed by other companies. Users can create an account and join in to help preserve digital content that is at risk of disappearing forever. It is not known yet what will be considered the most valuable archive material in fifty or a hundred or five hundred years, so it would seem wise to do what we can to preserve it now.
‘Do We Need a Better Archive of the Internet?’, Idea Channel, PBS Digital Studios