Call for Participation

Call for Participation: Archives Unleashed: Web Archive Hackathon
Robarts Library, University of Toronto
3-5 March 2016
Travel grants available for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and contingent faculty
Applications due 7 December 2015

The World Wide Web has a profound impact on how we research and understand the past. The sheer amount of cultural information that is generated and, crucially, preserved every day in electronic form, presents exciting new opportunities for researchers. Much of this information is captured within web archives.

Web archives often contain hundreds of billions of web pages, ranging from individual homepages and social media posts, to institutional websites. These archives offer tremendous potential for social scientists and humanists, and the questions research may pose stretch across a multitude of fields. Scholars broaching topics dating back to the mid-1990s will find their projects enhanced by web data. Moreover, scholars hoping to study the evolution of cultural and societal phenomena will find a treasure trove of data in web archives. In short, web archives offer the ability to reconstruct large-scale traces of the relatively recent past.

While there has been considerable discussion about web archive tools and datasets, few forums or mechanisms for coordinated, mutually informing development efforts have been created. This hackathon presents an opportunity to collaboratively unleash our web collections, exploring cutting-edge research tools while fostering a broad-based consensus on future directions in web archive analysis.

This hackathon will bring together a small group of 20-30 participants to collaboratively develop new open-source tools and approaches to hackathon, and to kick-off collaboratively inspired research projects. Researchers should be comfortable with command line interactions, and knowledge of a scripting language such as Python strongly desired. By bringing together a group of like-minded scholars and programmers, we hope to begin building unified analytic production effort and to continue coalescing this nascent research community.

At this event, we hope to converge on a shared vision of future directions in the use of web archives for inquiry in the humanities and social sciences in order to build a community of practice around various web archive analytics platforms and tools.

Thanks to the generous support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the University of Waterloo’s Department of History, the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto Library, the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, the University of Québec in Outaouais, the Internet Archive, Library and Archives Canada, and Compute Canada, we will cover all meals and refreshments for attendees. We are also providing sample datasets for people to work on during the hackathon, or they are happy to use their own. Included datasets are:

  • the .gov web archive covering the American government domain;
  • the Government of Canada web archive from Library and Archives Canada;
  • the Canadian Political Parties and Political Interest Groups web archive from the University of Toronto.

Those interested in participating should send a 250-word expression of interest and a CV to Ian Milligan ( by 7 December 2015. This expression of interest should address the scholarly questions that you will be bringing to the hackathon, and what datasets you might be interested in either working with or bringing to the event. Applicants will be notified by 18 December 2015.

For graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers in contingent positions, we have a limited number of travel grants available. These grants can cover up to $750 in expenses. If you are in an eligible position, please indicate in your statement of interest that you would like to be considered for the travel grant. A letter of support from your graduate supervisor will also strengthen your application.

On behalf of the organizers,

Ian Milligan (University of Waterloo), Nathalie Casemajor (Université du Québec en Outaouais), Jimmy Lin (University of Waterloo), Matthew Weber (Rutgers University), Nicholas Worby (University of Toronto)