Presentation at the iPRES 2016, 13th International Conference on Digital Preservation. Bern, October 3-6, 2016
By Tjarda de Haan, guest e-curator & web archaeologist at the Amsterdam Museum
National Coalition Digital Preservation, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Old inhabitants, (ex) DDS employees and DDS affiliated web-archeologists, UvA Faculty of Science and Waag Society
Project "The Digital City Revives, A Case Study of Web Archaeology"
Project "The Digital City Revives“
A Case Study of Web Archaeology
Amsterdam Museum, Tjarda de Haan, guest e-curator & web archaeologist
Our goal: REconstruct and safeguard Amsterdam digital cultural heritage.
Our challenge: Will we be able -together- to transform De Digitale Stad (The Digital City; DDS)
from a virtual Atlantis into a virtual Pompeii?
Wayback in Amsterdam in 1994…
In the wild, wild cyberspace
arose a virtual city
from network cables, computers and modems…
… De Digitale Stad - DDS - The Digital City
What is De Digitale Stad - The Digital City (1994-2001)?
• 1st (free) public domain virtual city in the world.
• 1st Dutch online community.
• 1st time internet (free) accessible to general public in the Netherlands.
• Grounded by a fluid group: independent media, hackers and the municipality of Amsterdam.
• Attracted international interest for the design: metaphor of a city to structure cyberspace.
• Good for the cyberreputation of the city of Amsterdam:
• CNN (1997): "For hundreds of years the city of Amsterdam has been a center of commercial trade, art and education.
Now it’s helping point the way in the information revolution too ".
• Manuel Castells (The Internet Galaxy, 2001): "The most famous citizen computer network. (…) A new form of public
sphere combining local institutions, grassroots organisations, and computer networks in the development of cultural
expression and civic participation".
• Inhabitants (the users): 1994: 12.000 - 1997: 60.000 - 1998: 80.000 - 2000: 140.000.
Treasury with born-digital heritage
• DDS is an important historical source about the early years of the Web in
• Culture: DDS is a digital environment, a virtual city with inhabitants, which
brought forth objects, ideas and traditions.
• Technology: DDS is a complex information system with different
applications, through time. DDS is interactive, networked process-based
– 1994-1995: DDS 1.0 - telnet interface
– 1994-1995: DDS 2.0 - website: static HTML
– 1995-2001: DDS 3.0 - web system: static HTML and interactive web pages
DDS 1.0 - 15 January 1994 DDS 3.0 - 10 June 1995
DDS 2.0 - 1 October 1994
Challenges of born-digital heritage:
• Material: information is complex and transitive by nature. By rapid obsolescence of
technology: missing hardware and software, lost documents and link rot. Dynamic character:
doesn’t always reach final status and often not clear what belongs to the object. Ethical
issues: regarding to privacy, copyright and licensing.
• Methodes: there is a difference between web harvesting and web archaeology. Web
harvesting is the equivalent of taking a photographic snapshot of an object, while we aim to
recreate the object itself by digital excavating.
• Division of tasks: who will take which responsibilities to reconstruct, preserve and retrieve
born-digital heritage and make it accessible to the public? What we badly need is:
o Web archaeological tools.
o Central repository for tools: for example to read obsolete media.
o Software library: who is archiving old software like Solaris, Windows, MacOs.
o Sustainable e-depot and infrastructure.
o Approach: no standards: given the urgency we can not wait. So just do it ... and trial and
Out of the box, collection 2.0:
• The museum has to cross boundaries, and get out of its comfort-zone to break new ground
in dealing with digital heritage. To seek out new technologies, and new disciplines.
• New areas: Different demands in acquiring and preservation of digitally created expressions
of culture or physical objects. How to preserve digital objects that are interactive,
networked, process-oriented and context-dependent and make DDS data 'future-proof' (via
Open Archival Information System):
• How to preserve (and represent) historical digital-born data: 'historical true' or a 'quick and dirty'
(migration, conversion, emulation, virtualization)?
• Process: Ingest digital objects - Store reliable - Manage data - Preserve for future - Maintain - Make
• E-culture: Data are the new clay, scripts are the new shovels and the web is the youngest
layer of clay that we mine. Web archaeology is a new direction in e-culture in which we
excavate relatively new (born-digital) material, that has only recently been lost, with
relatively new (digital) tools. Both matter and methods to excavate and reconstruct our
digital past are very young and still developing.
What do we do & where are we now?
• Launch of Open History Lab and virtual museum.
• Crowdsourcing (The Grave Diggers Party).
• Collect stories and memories.
3. Process and make data accessible:
• Development of web archaeologische tools (digital forensics and
• Apply the ‘Open Archival Information System’ and connect to
national Digitale Infrastructuur.
• Archive DDS data in e-depots.
4. Reconstruction and presentation:
• Reconstruct original software and hardware.
• Let the Bytes Free!
• Conclusions, evaluation, documentation, knowledge sharing.
What are we looking for?
Archaeological remains of the city::
• Software - Interfaces (DDS 1,2,3 and 3.5), Freezes (1996 and DDS3).
• Hardware - Shaman, Alibaba, Aladdin, etc.
• Special projects - web: DDS Webmix, Metro, cafés, etc.
• Special projects - hybrid: SMART TV, IjburgTV, Transparant Amsterdam, live.dds.nl, etc.
• Individual houses and squares - Thisbe, Plein van de Dood, etc.
Crowdsourcing the community ‘Grave Diggers Party’
1. Working space The Archaeological Site re:DDS
• Bring and upload your code.
• Digg in the Wayback Machine and store excavations in Historical (e-)Depot.
• Share your stories and memories in the Open History Lab re:DDS.nl.
• Computers: excavators.
• Storage: buckets.
• UNIX commands, mice: pades, pick-axe, trowels.
• Scripts : metal detectors.
• USB: find bags.
• Metadata: find cards.
2. Museum space Tourist Tours
• /Lost+found: ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’:
• Hardware: servers, terminals, modembanks, taperobots etc.
• Screenshots of DDS.
• What is DDS? Where are you? What is this site? Why this site?
/lost+found: 4 TV broadcasts by Smart TV (each: 6 hours!)
• Live from De Balie of the Amsterdam cable on January 15, 1994 the opening of DDS
• With: Internet pioneers Rop Gonggrijp, Felipe Rodriquez and Marleen Stikker
• Official opening by the deputy mayor of Amsterdam Frank de Grave.
/lost+found: two public terminals, 1994
/lost+found: Cityscapes (interfaces) of De Digitale Stad
• DDS first graphical interface designed by Walter van der Cruijsen in 1994. Never used online for DDS.
• And first city logo.
/lost+found: excavations in the museum
/lost+found: De Digitale Stad newspaper, 1994
/lost+found: Flyer De Digitale Stad 3.0, 1995
/lost+found: Handbook Digital Cities, 1995
/lost+found: De Digitale Stedeling, 1996
Tools & methods 2015
/lost+found, working software:
• Avatar generator, by students History of digital cultures, University of Amsterdam 2015.
Concept in 1995:
•"We wanted to introduce the concept of a personalized avatar
for “who is live”. No digital cameras or drawing programs.
•"We needed something graphic to give people a kind of a
unique identity on an impersonal Internet."
•"We tried to create a form of 'place' and 'present' which was
lost in transition in the new interface (from Bulletin Board to
web version DDS3.0).
Tools & methods 2016
/lost+found, (almost) working software:
• DDS1.0 by Michaël van Eeden.
Tools & methods 2016
/lost+found, presentations & working software:
• Students excavate and present theirs outcomings!
Tools & methods 2016
/lost+found, presentations & working software:
• Students excavate and present theirs outcomings on:
o DDS 3.0 – old code, new machines
o DDS 4.0 – make-over with new technology
• From raw data to e-depot. How to preserve digital objects that are interactive,
networked, process-oriented and context-dependent?
o Ingest: How to read DDS data into an archive?
o Archival Storage: Which archives are reliable for the DDS data?
o Access: How can interested people get to the DDS data?
o Data management: How should DDS data be managed?
o Preservation planning: How remains DDS data accessible in the future?
o Administration: Who takes care of the maintenance, and what does that look like?
• How to present the DDS born-digital heritage in a museum context for future
Who likes a challenge?
Web archaeology: a multidisciplinary science
Goals of the project ‘The Digital City revives’:
• Reconstruct and preserve DDS;
• Provide insight into the (existing and new) processes, techniques and methods for born-
digital material and the context in which they are found, to excavate and reconstruct;
• Raise awareness for the danger of ‘digital amnesia’;
• To provide museums and organizations with specialized knowledge about the reconstruction
of born-digital heritage and lower the threshold for future web archaeological projects.
Disseminating knowledge in a DIY Handbook of Web Archaeology and ‘The 23 Things of Web
• Make DDS data 'future-proof' in making the digital cultural heritage:
• Visible (content): promoting (re)use of DDS.
• Usable (connection): improving (re)use of DDS collection by making it available by linking and enriching data.
• Preservable (services): maintain DDS sustainable and keep it accessible.
/lost+found: DDS in the museum!
• First time webarchaeological excavations (born-digital heritage) are shown in
Amsterdam Museum: the avatars!
• Come and visit the museum and immortalise yourself...
• To be continued!
Our partners (till now):
Amsterdam City Archives, Digital Heritage Netherlands, Dutch Cultural Coalition for Digital Durability, Joost Flint, Karin Spaink,
independent researcher, Dutch Computer Heritage Foundation, International Institute of Social History, LIMA, National
Coalition Digital Preservation, National Library of the Netherlands, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Old
inhabitants, (ex) DDS employees and DDS affiliated web-archeologists, UvA Faculty of Science, Waag Society
• Guidelines for the Preservating of Digital Heritage (March 2003).
• IIPC: Web Archives: The Future(s), by Eric T. Meyer, Arthur Thomas, Ralph Schroeder (2011, University of Oxford)
• Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage: UNESCO http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-
• WIR SIND HIER – Opening TOTAL RECALL – The Evolution of Memory http://www.aec.at/aeblog/en/2013/07/22/wir-
• And more: http://www.delicious.com/re_dds/.