An old church in San Francisco hosts the headquarters of the Internet Archive, the organization that has been storing all kinds of digital files for the last 20 years.
Back in July 2016, several media organizations began to question whether Melania Trump — wife of then-Republican candidate Donald Trump — really had a degree in design and architecture obtained in Slovenia. The claim had been posted on her website, melaniatrump.com, but shortly after those doubts were raised the site disappeared. Instead, Melania Trump’s website now directs to Trump.com, the website for The Trump Organization.
However, thanks to the Internet Archive, a copy of the site as it appeared on May 29th was still available on the web for anyone to check or quote it.
The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization celebrating its 20th anniversary this year that keeps the history of the internet alive. Founded by Brewster Kahle, the organization has been working to preserve all of the published work placed on the web, creating a huge collection that can be browsed on archive.org using their Wayback Machine. And the efforts aren’t just for websites: They have compiled books, television programs, music, magazines and even software.
Entering the Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco, next to Presidio Park, is like exploring a temple of geek culture. Since 2009, the organization has been based in a former Christian Science church. The interior of the building keeps the pews of the church, which now have seats surrounded by T-shirts from conferences, free software and similar items. The servers are the big stars of the headquarters, and in different corners of the building you can find small works and winks to science. And next to the stage in the building, instead of psalms there are the first figures of the number pi as well as the Golden Number.
“I would say we’re information activists. We are people who believe in the power of openness,” Kahle said in an interview.
On November 29, three weeks after Donald Trump became the president-elect, Kahl announced that his organization is starting to create digital collections in Canada. Already, they have partial collections for Alexandria, Egypt and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. While the organization had already begun work on Canada’s archive, the election accelerated their pace.
“On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change,” Kahle said in a blog post. “For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions.”
And, for now, Melania Trump’s website won’t be disappearing anytime soon.