Drexel CCI Researchers Receive IMLS Grant in Support of Collaborative Study on the Preservation of Digital Ads

A new collaborative project between researchers at the Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) and the Old Dominion University's (ODU) Web Science and Digital Libraries (WS-DL) Research Group focusing on the preservation of past online advertisements help to inform future archiving methods was funded by the Institute of Library and Museum and Library Services (IMLS) ($149,479 over two years).

Titled "Saving Ads: Assessing and Improving Web Archives' Holdings of Online Advertisements," the project is led by Assistant Professor Mat Kelly, PhD with co-investigators Associate Professor Alex Poole, PhD, and ODU’s Michael L. Nelson and Michele C. Weigle.

“Online ads have a similar, if not great cultural significance as print advertisements,” said Kelly. “For example, embedded ads for masks, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, depict social norms of a time in much of the same way as ads for Camel Cigarettes did in 1946. However, major public Web archives are failing to capture many embedded ads in their archived pages.”

The project team will analyze the need for, and feasibility of, archiving and preserving online advertisements and other types of dynamic elements embedded in webpages. The team will build a collection of archived advertisements to discover what is available; analyze the data gathered to establish a baseline of what has been archived and what is missing; perform a qualitative analysis consisting of surveys and interviews with archivists and scholars; and pull together the findings in a white paper. 

This project work will benefit Web archivists and librarians who are concerned with providing complete collections for scholars, as well as scholars in the humanities and social sciences studying the historical impact of online advertisements. 

This project is funded through IMLS’ National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program (NLG-L), which supports projects that address critical needs of the library and archives fields and have the potential to advance practice and strengthen library and archival services for the American public. Successful proposals will generate results such as new models, tools, research findings, services, practices, and/or alliances that can be widely used, adapted, scaled, or replicated to extend and leverage the benefits of federal investment.

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