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Curating LGBTQ+ Lives Online for the UK Web Archive

I joined Goldsmiths University earlier this year as the Library Service Systems Assistant Technician. Alongside this, I also volunteer at the British Library (focused on games events and web archiving), and am also on the Committee for the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) LGBTQ+ Network. Both British Library and CILIP volunteer roles now overlap through the LGBTQ+ Lives Online web archiving project, as I’m one of two co-lead curators on that project. As well as sharing the project here, I’ll also be presenting it in a Library all-staff meeting in June. And as June is Pride month, it’s an appropriate time to do that.

When the internet first rose to prominence in the late 1990s, one of the primary modes of communicating with others was through internet chat rooms and forums. Suddenly, isolated people all over the world with a personal computer and internet access could communicate with others ‘like them’. It is perhaps partly for the need to feel more connected with other people ‘like them’ that LGBTQ+ people adapted to online community-building quickly. Now, as we have been living online for over 25 years, it seems pertinent to consider what traces of early digital lives survive, and how we can begin to make sense of it. What survives of digital campaigns to legalise the age of consent for all sexualities in the UK (2001), gain recognition and protections of members of the trans community (Gender Recognition Act 2004) or the battle for marriage equality in the UK (England and Wales, 2013, Scotland 2014, Northern Ireland 2019)? As well as historical content such as this, we must also ensure we are ready and able to curate current and future online discussions and websites surrounding LGBTQ+ lives as well.

UK websites have been archived on a permissions basis since 2005 via the Shine interface. This changed with the implementation of Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations. As a result, since April 2013, through the UK Web Archive, the British Library along with the other five UK Legal Deposit Libraries (National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin Library), has run an annual domain crawl of the UK web. Following on from this, in 2020, the British Library and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) LGBTQ+ Network began a collaborative project to develop the LGBTQ+ Lives Online. This project tags and subject categorises relevant LGBTQ+ websites already in the UK Web Archive, and is expanding the scope of LGBTQ+ websites we collect for future generations.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels.

The collection currently contains over 400 sites and web pages in the main collection, with more of these being added to sub-collections every week. Many of the sites were already in the UKWA before the collaboration began, but were not linked to sub-collections. We are still at the stage where we are developing the structure of sub-collections, but our initial indexes cover:

  • Activism/Pride
  • Arts, Literature, Music & Culture
  • Business/Commerce
  • Education
  • History
  • Health and Community
  • Policy and Legislative Change
  • Religion
  • Social Organisations
  • Sport

LGBTQ+ content was already part of the UK Web Archive before the collaboration began, with many sites in other UK Web Archive collections overlapping LGBTQ+ themes. For example, Black and Asian Britain (, Gender Equality (Beyond the Binary), Sport (Graces Cricket Club). And some sites cut across many collections, highlighting the intersectional nature of the UK Web Archive. For example, Gal-Dem features in the News Sites; Zines and Fanzines; Black and Asian Britain; Gender Equality; Women’s Issues; Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights collections, as well as LGBTQ+ Lives Online. LGBTQ+ Lives Online, much like the lived experience of the LGBTQ+ community does not sit in isolation, disconnected from other aspects of UK offline and online life. LGBTQ+ people play a part in all aspects of the UK community, and are not solely defined by their gender or sexual orientation.

Since the launch of this collaborative project, we have been focused on a few areas to both develop the project and to preserve sites within the collection. This includes:

  • Identifying sites already in the UK Web Archive to be added to the LGBTQ+ Lives Online sub-collections.
  • Identifying new sites not already in the UKWA to be included in the collection.
  • Spreading the word about the project as widely as possible via blog posts and articles such as this; social media; emails targeting specific LGBTQ+, library, and broader diversity organisations and networks.

We would especially like to see more nominations that reflect the multicultural nature of UK LGBTQ+ communities, including UK sites written in languages other than English.

Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013, the UKWA can archive UK published websites, but are only able to make the archived version available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. You can browse through the collection here, and nominate a UK published site or webpage with a focus on LGBTQ+ lives to be included in the collection via: .

You can read more about the LGBTQ+ Lives Online project at:


Ash Green (Goldsmiths Library, Systems Assistant Technician)

Steven Dryden (British Library)

UK Web Archive Lead Curators for LGBTQ+ Lives Online

Content in this post originally appeared on the British Library UK Web Archive blog, and has been adapted under a Creative Commons license.

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