by Catherine Ryan, Digital Collections Student & Maria O’Shea, Manuscript Student
Here at the National Library we try to collect as much as we can that might not otherwise be collected and available to researchers of the future. So, when it came to the 2011 General Election, we not only collected posters, flyers etc. as we do for every election, we decided to ‘collect’ 96 websites dealing with the election and archive them. It’s the first time that a themed web archiving project has been attempted in Ireland, and we worked with Internet Memory Foundation to achieve it.
The 2011 General Election was held on Friday 25 February. We captured each site twice to get as much pre- and post-election material as we could (21/22 February and 10 March). The websites we chose range from election candidate sites (party and independent candidates, especially those tipped for winning or those with a high profile) to political party sites (including smaller parties such as New Vision) to political blogs to a small number of official government sites.
When you enter the archive, you enter candidate and party websites and can discover a lot more than just party objectives and policies. You can still play the Fine Gael computer game and help Enda Kenny win all the points in his plan and kill a couple of politicians along the way… one of whom turns into a compost heap when ‘killed’.
Observe the different online campaigning strategies of the different parties – for example, unlike some other parties, only one Sinn Féin candidate had a personal website. Of course, the election results affected post-election capture as most unsuccessful candidates put up little or no information after the results became known. Some candidates even took their sites down, so you can now view information that no longer exists on the live Web.
Blogs, along with Facebook, provide another perspective. For the views of one of the best-known bloggers, have a look at what Slugger O’Toole who writes from Northern Ireland, was saying on 21 February or 22 February. For great visual material from the 2011 General Election, take a look at the Upstart site – that project’s ‘alternative’ election posters adorned many lamp posts; and for leaflets, check out Election Leaflets 2011. As well as these specific sites, most sites include Flickr photos of candidate interviews, candidates canvassing etc. And, of course, for issues of the day – and not only information on the election- we selected RTÉ along with a number of other media sites.