In November 2010, Edmonton hosted the 98th Grey Cup. The Montreal Alouettes defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the second straight year to capture the CFL’s top prize. Of course, the event was more than just a football game. We’re festival city, and we turned the Grey Cup into a very successful festival. There was something for everyone, and downtown was full of people, which unfortunately doesn’t happen very often. It wasn’t a perfect event, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an Edmontonian who would consider it anything less than a success.
Ten years from now, only the statisticians and the really, really heartbroken will recall the winner of Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Edmonton.
What we would like to remember, in 10 years, is that many thousands of warmly audacious people from Saskatchewan came to witness Edmonton’s transition from a cosy little prairie city to something else.
I would go further and say that we absolutely need to remember what we accomplished with the Grey Cup Festival. We need to be proud of it, we need to learn from it, and we need to improve upon it.
But, the Grey Cup Festival never happened.
If you try to visit the festival website, at http://www.greycupfestival2010.com, you’re redirected to the website of the Edmonton Eskimos. As far as the web is concerned, the festival never happened. And in 2011 and beyond, the web is all that matters. Think about it for a second – less than two months after the event took place, the most important online record of it has vanished.
Ignoring the fact that the website barely worked during the festival (which is an important, but different issue), this is troubling. I have written before about the need to preserve our local, digital, cultural artifacts. The web is the single most important platform for doing so. The web is accessible and pervasive. Too often, however, it is not permanent. We can and must do better. We also need to stop thinking of event websites as only being relevant during the event.
Now obviously the festival happened. And there are other places online that provide evidence and a record of it. There’s the Wikipedia entry, the many blog posts that were written, thousands of photos uploaded to the web, etc. But all of these should be ancillary to the event website, not a substitute for it. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll exist in the future. For instance, you can read Todd’s article today, but in six months it will no longer be available on the web (hopefully my archive link is…this is a problem the Journal is aware of and hopes to address).
The saddest part about this particular instance is that I guessed it would happen. I should have spoken up sooner. The good news is that I archived the entire site on November 27, 2010. You can see the front page here.
I don’t think this is an easy problem to solve, but I believe it is important that we do solve it. I’m going to do what I can to help educate others about why this is so important, I’ll continue learning from the very smart people we have in the “archival” business, and I’ll continue doing what I can to help archive.