By Lawrence Bonk
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The fourth annual Internet Week kicks off in New York City Monday, featuring 250 exhibits, meetups, parties panels and conferences that celebrate digital culture and serve as global showcase for the Big Apple’s technology scene.
Among the festivities is the Digital Archeology Exhibition, which showcases 28 of the best Web sites the early Internet had to offer.
It goes much further than that, though.
Life on the net moves at a breakneck pace. The new swoops in and erases the old with alarming regularity. Old Web sites, which were once king of the hill, soon find themselves antiquated and forgotten. It’s enough to make you weep, if you are the type to anthropomorphize websites. Luckily, there are archivers in the world that are beginning to take the rapid disappearance of net content seriously.
“Our goal is to take you back in time,” said Jim Boulton, curator of the exhibit. “The sites are running on the same hardware they ran on back then. We also outfit each area with CDs, magazines and DVDs from that year.”
The Web sites go as far back as 1991, before the Internet had achieved widespread consumer use. It was more or less the domain of specialists and tech gurus.
“These people invented modern culture,” Boulton said.
The 28 Web sites chosen, which include luminaries like Word.com and the destructible Web site for Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, were chosen based on their general wow factor and the influence they ended up having on the future of the Internet. Also, the code had to actually be located, which was easier said than done.
“The very first Web site was launched in 1991, but no record of it exists,” Boulton said. “The earliest copy is from 1992. There isn’t even a screenshot available. What we are trying to do here is make people within the industry realize they are in charge of our recent history. Otherwise, we are in danger of knowing more about the late 19th century than we know about the late 20th century.”
They aren’t the only ones trying to do that. Preserving the Internet has been a slow-burning trend the last few years. There is the Internet Archive and the Smithsonian’s efforts to preserve Internet memes. The Library of Congress has even gotten in on the act. They have begun collecting and keeping track of notable websites. Incidentally, the LoC’s own Abigail Grotke will be giving a keynote address at the exhibit.
The magic happens June 6-13 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. Give it a gander and experience nostalgia for something you didn’t even realize you’d have nostalgia for, the recent past. In the meantime, the exhibit’s organizers, Story Worldwide, have set up an online poll to see which of the 28 websites featured most capture the public’s fancy. Head on over to this link to vote.
Are you thinking about your old LiveJournal right about now? It wasn’t that embarrassing, was it?
Lawrence Bonk is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.