What is the Australian Web Archive?

Just as a regular library gathers together books and manuscripts, the Australian Web Archive (AWA) collects online publications. This includes websites, webpages and other web documents, like PDFs. It usually doesn’t include social media, although certain Twitter accounts can be collected.

What’s in the Australian Web Archive?

The AWA allows you to time travel. It’s where you can find earlier versions of websites from a previous time or discover websites that no longer even exist – like the official Sydney Olympic Games website in 2000. The archived websites are snapshots in time. This is because websites change so frequently, you can only capture a fleeting moment. We may only make one copy of a site per year.

The kinds of websites we typically gather include news and organisational websites, social sites or personal sites like blogs.

The AWA collection itself consists of three collections: 

  • The PANDORA Archive – this was the first web archiving program and was opened by the Library in 1996. It is selective in what it gathers, usually collecting by theme or event, like an election campaign.
  • The Australian Government Web Archive – a collection of Commonwealth Government websites which are gathered multiple times each year.
  • The Australian Domain Harvest collection – this makes up more than 80% of the AWA. Content is regularly harvested at least once a year across Australian (.au) domains.

How the AWA collects web content

The Library’s mission is to collect material that tells the stories of all Australians. Collecting online material for the AWA is part of this mission. Collecting publications is part of the requirements of legal deposit set out in the Copyright Act (1968). In 2016, legal deposit was expanded to include online publishing.

The content is harvested automatically. This means if you’re a content maker or publisher you don’t need to do anything. The AWA uses robot technologies which crawl across the whole .au domain space and they harvest the web domains themselves.

However, robot technology does have limitations. Sometimes it's not possible to harvest everything. This means many archived websites are incomplete or don’t have the functionality you’d find on the original website.

Sometimes a website can be set up in a way that blocks our robots from harvesting the online material automatically, which means we can’t harvest it.

Selection of Material for the AWA is carried out in accordance with the Library's Collection Development Policy.

Where to find the AWA collection

You can access the AWA collections by theme through the Trove discovery service. You can also search through Trove using website URLs or keywords and phrases.