Digital Archaeology – Uncovering a Website

February 8, 2013


Sometime in 2009, before I came to the museum, there was a major migration in both server, platform and URL of the Museums’ website.  These were necessary and progressive moves in the ever changing technological landscape, however, it was not without cost.  In the same way time and earth might cover  over the traces of an extinct civilization we had to throw an assortment of great (but dated) websites into archival mode in our /sites directory. Many, if not all, of these websites were now completely or partially broken due to the change in URL and directory structure and some rendered quite differently in modern browsers.

Knowing we have some 30 research and exhibit websites with fantastic content, dating back to 1996 or before, languishing in relative obscurity I’m hoping to dig one up each month, perform some digital conservation and put them back on display in the digital museum that is the World Wide Web.

For my first foray into Digital Archaeology I chose to dig up our “A New Look at Ancient Egypt” website. After years of neglect, browser advances and server upgrades this website no longer functioned properly. It had rollover images that didn’t work, scores of broken links and most recently a 404 error message before and after content due to some faulty Server Side Includes.

This week I went through and fixed all the glaring issues on the some 49 individual pages of the Ancient Egypt website. I also added links from the objects cited in the website to their records in our collections database for further information about the objects.  One thing I didn’t fix is the cringe-worthy homepage of the website , I left that in tact in honor of the website creator and for the sake of our museums’ digital heritage.

Once you get past the intro page of the website you will find that the site is full of great content about ancient Egyptian life, pharaohs, Egyptian Gods & Goddesses, Penn Museum expeditions to the region and the objects they brought back here to Philadelphia. The Gods & Goddesses main page is a fantastic visual guide to the pairings and offspring of the Ancient Egyptian Gods & Goddesses.

I hope you find the website informative and educational and I’ll be back on the blog to discuss my next website dig and my further adventures in Digital Archaeology.

Photo above: Archives # 80966