Website Perpetuation
The Coming Crisis

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Last updated March 17, 2008
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This web page is dedicated to the issue of website perpetuation. Books do not die when their authors die, but web sites do. There are many very valuable web sites that individual authors have created. If nothing is done, these web sites will simply disappear when their webmasters are no longer able to pay the monthly charge for their server space. Some clerk somewhere will simply click a mouse button, and thousands of hours of creative productivity will vanish forever.

For me (Wesley Johnston), this is a very personal issue. I have created web pages on the US 7th Armored Division that contain the transcriptions of over 10,000 pages of original World War II documents. But I also have seen many valuable websites disappear, and I am aware of many more that are very much in danger of disappearing. For example, the staggeringly extensive collection of German and American records at Karen's Gen exists only because of the dedication of one person and should not be lost if she cannot continue the work, as will inevitably happen some day.

So this web page is intended first to raise this issue, since I find almost nothing else on the web that addresses this, and second to record the efforts that I have gone through in order to try to assure that my valuable web site does not disappear simply because I may become unable to keep it going.

There are two disinct issues in website preservation:

  1. Website continuation
  2. Website growth

The first is an issue of sheer existence, just keeping the web site up on the web, so that it can still be used. The second is one of much more complexity: finding another dedicated individual to maintain and expand the web site with the same commitment to accuracy and completeness that the originator brought to its creation.


My Own Efforts to Perpetuate
the U.s. 7th Armored Division Web Site

In 2005, I had a medical emergency that made me realize that I had come all too close to finding out what the second date on my tombstone will be. This made me acutely aware that at any moment, the existence of my web pages is also in jeopardy. My 7th Armored Division web site is a gold mine of World War II information. There are pages and pages of information that was obtained through diligent research in the original records at many different archives, as well as in the personal accounts and reviews of the drafts of those pages by those veterans who were there. And then there is the 7th Armored Division Document repository. It contains the transcriptions of more than 10,000 pages of original World War II documents. These pages are the culmination of tens of thousands of hours of work by myself and by those who helped with the transcriptions and the reviews. It would be a tragedy for this to simply vanish and leave the work to begin all over again as if it had never been done.

So I set about trying to find some agency with a historical mandate who would accept the web pages as part of their continuing web site. My first thought was the history department of the local university, California State University at Fresno. This was only partially successful. The university web site did include the scanned images of the Division-level After Action Reports of 7AD. But as images, they were unsearchable via search engines: none of their content could be found by Google or any other search engine, since the university chose not to include the transcriptions with the images. So while this was a step in the right direction, it was a drop in the ocean compared to what was needed, and the university apparently does not intend to go any further.

My next attempts were all made to seek out the preserervation of the web site by some historically-mandated institution.

The 7th Armored Division Association did step forward and agreed to pay the annual costs of the server space to hold the web site. This at least addresses Website Preservation Issue #1, the continued existence of the web site. But that is only true as long as the 7th Armored Division Association exists. With the rapidly increasing annual loss of WWII veterans, the continued existence of the 7th Armored Division Assocaiton itself is far from a certainty. But at least this measure provides some short-term continuity for the web site, in case something happens to me.

The Bottom Line

So the bottom line is that preservation issue #1 (continuity) is resolved for the short term but not for the long term. And preservation issue #2 (growth) has not been resolved at all.

External Links

There is precious little about the issue of website preservation on the web. As more and more webmasters age and die, this issue will turn from a minor one into a real crisis. Incredible amounts of human creativity will be lost forever. Here are those few links that I have been able to find of people attempting to address this problem.