Digital Archaeology: Browse Websites from the Past at Internet Week NY



Content on the Internet changes daily, or more frequently than that, usually with scant concern for preservation or future studies. For a look back at the past Digital Archaeology, an upcoming exhibit during Internet Week NY June 6-13, will endeavor to bring some of the Internet’s earliest and/or most influential websites back to life.

In an archaeological dig of the Internet, visitors will have the opportunity to surf a total of 28 bygone sites on vintage hardware and software corresponding to the period of each site’s launch. The centerpiece of the Digital Archaeology exhibit is a display of The Project (1991), reuniting the first-ever website created by World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, with the pioneering NeXT Cube and the Nexus browser.

The exhibit will allow visitors to interact with each site on a historically accurate computer – Mac, PC, NeXT, etc. – while examining other technological artifacts from the same period such as DVDs and mobile phones. Visitors will be able to vote on their favorite sites by pointing their smartphones at codes on each display. Virtual visitors worldwide will also be able to view the exhibit online and cast votes.

Highlights include (1995), one of the Web’s first e-zines; The Blue Dot (1995), an art and design playground by pioneering online agency Razorfish; the self-destructing website for the film “Requiem for a Dream” (2000); Burger King’s Subservient Chicken (2004), in which a person dressed as a chicken followed viewers’ commands; HBO’s Voyeur (2007), a pioneer in multi-channel storytelling; and Wilderness Downtown (2010), which used Google maps to customize an Arcade Fire music video for each viewer.

Created by Story Worldwide and co-sponsored by Google, the Digital Archaeology exhibit will be taking place June 6-13 inside Internet Week NY headquarters at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. The show made its well-received debut last year in London during Internet Week Europe, and the New York version has been expanded with 16 additional sites.

Fans of both vintage websites and vintage computers should enjoy this historically accurate show. The developers have been hunting far and wide for period equipment for several months, and (full disclosure) my own Vintage Mac Museum even played a small part preparing this event, with a few beige PowerMacs and a G4 Cube traveling to NYC on loan for the exhibit.

If you won’t be going to San Francisco for WWDC, stop by New York for a history lesson instead!