How do we save the past in a violent present for an uncertain future? In cooperation with the Webrecorder project and through a grant from the Filecoin Foundation, New Design Congress examines the state of today's web preservation practice and its relationship to the world. This major report evaluates the current state of web preservation and the broader social and political contexts of web archiving tools and practice. Informed by 3 years of broader NDC research, threat modelling with the Webrecorder team, and qualitative interviews with preservation practitioners, this report details key threats, challenges and opportunities for developers, funders and policymakers working to support this vital field.

Key Findings:

  1. The definition of archiving is broad, but flattened by digital tools.
  2. Web archives are complex and overwhelming to practitioners.
  3. The anticipated opportunities of decentralised web preservation are plagued with many dangers.
  4. The difficulties and shortcomings of today's tools affect archive curation and quality.
  5. New interfaces for navigating archives is a key area for future research.
  6. Archive tools and processes reconfigure trauma responses in practitioners.
  7. Colonial methodology and language has narrowed the potential for web preservation.
  8. Digital archiving is vulnerable to political and ecological threats.
  9. Cryptographic archive integrity systems have unintended consequences.
  10. Emerging tools (such as Webrecorder) now enter a field that desperately needs them but struggles with their shortcomings.

After a period of early access for NDC supporters, Memory in Uncertainty: Web preservation in the polycrisis is now available in open access.