Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: Sept. 20, 2021, 9:21 a.m. Humanist 35.251 - Institutional Support for DH Websites

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 251.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2021-09-19 15:05:16+00:00
        From: Frederike Neuber <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.249: Institutional Support for DH Websites

Dear John,

A lot has already been said about preserving the presentation and
functionality layer of the web application, which I also agree with. This
challenge cannot be left to the libraries; rather, it must be tackled from
different perspectives (technical, financial, etc).

However, besides the already mentioned ways to preserve your web
application, you may also want to consider publishing the underlying data
with some documentation and under open licences in a repository (perhaps
you are already doing this). In the end the scholarly effort often lies
primarily in the data, even if most of us need an interface to use it. But:
if your current website will not be longer available and the data is at
least accessible in a repository, new interfaces can be build in the future
(maybe in the context of other projects).



Dr. Frederike Neuber

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften
TELOTA - Koordination Digital Humanities (
Jean Paul-Briefedition (

Jägerstraße 22/23, 10117 Berlin, Raum 458
Telefon: +49 (0)30 20370 395 [derzeit nur per e-mail erreichbar!]

- - - -

Institut für Dokumentologie und Editorik (
RIDE - A review journal for digital editions and resources (Managing

Am So., 19. Sept. 2021 um 08:04 Uhr schrieb Humanist <>:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 249.
>         Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
>                                 Hosted by DH-Cologne
>                 Submit to:
>         Date: 2021-09-18 17:32:37+00:00
>         From: Martin Holmes <>
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.246: Institutional Support for DH
> Websites
> Hi John,
> I think it's true that very few people do understand the scale of the
> challenge involved in preserving and maintaining not one or two but
> potentially hundreds of web applications, all created with different
> backend tools and frameworks, all of which age and obsolesce steadily,
> and all of which will eventually fail one way or another.
> Even a relatively simple WordPress site requires a backend database
> (MySQL or whatever), a web server that supports PHP (whose versions age
> out and become unsupported at a steady rate, just like the db server),
> various plugins (because site-designers, who give little thought to
> long-term maintenance, will inevitably pick up and install lots of
> "useful" third-party plugins which are typically unvetted,
> badly-supported and potentially dangerous), and lots of other JavaScript
> and PHP libraries and tools. Your site will have a different
> constellation of these dependencies and vulnerabilities than the next
> one; each project will require continual hands-on expert maintenance,
> with that burden growing rather than diminishing over time, until at
> some point it will be impractical to keep it going at all.
> So I don't think any library could possibly get access to the scale of
> funding they would require to provide this sort of long term support.
> Your library quite rightly said that they would happily archive your
> static data, but they could never agree to maintain your custom website
> in perpetuity. It's just not possible.
> That's why the Endings project has been creating recommendations and
> blueprints to enable us to build fully-functional interactive websites
> that are as close to static data as possible; that have no backend
> databases and no requirements for PHP or Java or anything else that
> needs constant tending. This is perfectly practical and not very
> difficult, and it can be done even at the end of a project, but it's
> certainly better to start as you mean to go on and build your web
> application this way from the beginning. I know it's a bit late to be
> saying this to you now, but perhaps one approach you might be able to
> take is to apply for a further grant, maybe in collaboration with the
> library, to convert your existing resource into something which the
> library can happily ingest, archive and continue to make available,
> because it presents them with no maintenance burden.
> I know you're familiar with the Map of Early Modern London project:
> (
> It's entirely static -- no database, no PHP, no WordPress, just HTML,
> CSS and JavaScript -- and I think it works pretty well. The only
> dependency we have is on Open Layers / Open Street Maps for our modern
> maps, and that dependency can be sacrificed in the long term because
> those modern maps are not really the main focus of the project.
> I think we have to accept that the onus is on us, as web application
> developers, to create products that libraries are able and willing to
> archive, rather than on libraries to volunteer to take on maintenance of
> countless various and fragile projects in perpetuity.
> Cheers,
> Martin

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