Web archiving is the process of collecting portions of the World Wide Web to ensure that the information is preserved in an archive for future researchers, historians, and the public.
The National Archives carries out web archiving to preserve the websites and some social media accounts of central government. The archived materials are kept in the UK Government Web Archive (UKGWA) which the members of the public can access online. The National Archives’ Operational Selection Policy OSP 27: UK Central Government Web Estate provides further detail.
Web archiving at The National Archives started in 2003 but some of our archived websites go as far back as 1996. Since then, we have archived over 5,000 websites and we continuously add new websites to the collection.
How to use the UK Government Web Archive
To see the full list of archived websites in our collection, visit our A to Z page.
Use UKGWA’s advanced search if you are looking for a specific phrase or document.
Please note: links from archived websites to other non-government websites usually don’t work. For example, if you are viewing the archived version of the NHS website, the links to Facebook, YouTube, or the BBC won’t work.
Interactive content usually cannot be archived. Some examples would be: interactive maps, site search, contact forms, and some interactive animations. You can also view our web archiving guidance for a more comprehensive list of the limitations. This guide also provides useful information for website managers.
Checking for content in UKGWA while browsing
When you are viewing a live UK Government website, you can use the bookmarklet below to check whether past versions of a government website exist on UKGWA.Check UKGWA
How to use the bookmarklet:
- Make sure the bookmarks bar is visible in your web browser
- Drag the bookmarklet above to your browser’s bookmarks bar
- Visit a UK government website such as gov.uk
- Click the bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar
If the website has been archived in UKGWA, you will see the past versions of the site.
If what you are looking for is not in UKGWA
If you cannot find the archived version of a website in UKGWA, you can use the ‘Memento’ browser plugin to search across multiple web archives easily.
We recommend using this plugin with the Chrome web browser. Memento is also available for other browsers but Memento for Chrome is particularly user-friendly for UKGWA users as it requires little configuration.
To use Memento, follow these steps:
- Install the Memento plugin for Chrome
- Right-click on the grey clock icon in Chrome’s top bar
- Select Options
- Select ‘Memento Aggregator’ to search across multiple web archives. (You can also select ‘UK National Archives Web Archive’ to make Memento search within UKGWA.)
- Click on Update
- Go to any website and right-click anywhere on the web page
- Select ‘Memento Time Travel’
Archived social media
The earliest archived social media content available dates from 2006 and covers some major events in our history including the London 2012 Olympic games.
Our Twitter archiving activity has been guided by the following rules that have informed our approach to building effective technical solutions that can work at scale:
- In: The tweets made by organisation we have a remit to preserve are captured. Where these tweets contain a link to web content that is included in the UKGWA, that link will normally resolve in full to an archived version of that website.
- Out: Retweets are generally excluded and tweets sent from non-government accounts that form part of a conversation on Twitter (for example replies, or tweets directed at the government accounts) haven’t been preserved.
More information is available in our Operational Selection Policy OSP 27: UK Central Government Web Estate
Re-use of content
Most, but not all, of the websites accessible through the UKGWA were created by Crown bodies and are Crown copyright. Most of the archived content of these websites and services is also Crown copyright. Unless otherwise stated, you may re-use Crown copyright material obtained from the UKGWA freely under the terms of the Open Government Licence.
Where websites have used third party (non-Crown) material, the copyright status of this material should be clearly stated on the site, either attached to or embedded within the material itself or on the copyright page on said site. In such cases the third party content is not re-usable under the Open Government Licence and the onus for obtaining the consent of the copyright owner rests with the person or organisation who wishes to re-use it.
Please note that the Open Government Licence does not permit the re use of personal information and that photographs that depict an identifiable individual can constitute personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Act.
In addition to the above, further restrictions apply to the re-use of material originally published by government bodies, such as the Ministry of Defence (MoD), that have been granted a delegation of authority by the Keeper of Public Records. For example, material published on MoD websites may be reproduced for the purposes of non-commercial research or private study and for the purposes of reporting current events only, unless other terms are set out against the respective content. You should check the relevant MoD copyright licensing information before assuming it is acceptable for you to copy and / or re-use the material under the Open Government Licence.
The National Archives does not warrant that all third party content is appropriately marked. The re-use of any copyright material that is not clearly identified as being Crown copyright is not authorised by The National Archives. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have any necessary permission for the re-use of copyright material obtained from the UK Government Web Archive.
The National Archives has a takedown policy, which explains the circumstances in which material will be taken down from websites.
We welcome feedback on the UK Government Web Archive. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org