The Human Rights Web Archive is an initiative by Columbia University Libraries and Information Services (CUL) and its Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research (CHRDR), with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to select, preserve, and provide access to freely available internet resources, specifically addressing at-risk websites in the area of human rights. As expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this concept includes such commonly recognized areas as freedom from torture, slavery, and arbitrary arrest, but also embraces social, cultural, and economic rights, freedom of movement and assembly, the right to work, and more.
The interdisciplinary, wide-ranging, and highly networked field of human rights relies extensively on web-based information to disseminate publications, reports, media, and other content. While placing material on the internet allows for widespread and rapid access to information, much of this content is at risk of disappearing within a relatively short time period. Archiving this information and facilitating its ongoing discovery and use is essential for building the documentary record of human rights practice and research.
The Human Rights Web Archive project complements Columbia University Libraries’ strength in human rights collecting. The CHRDR is the official repository of the archives of several important organizations such as Amnesty International-USA, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Through its Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Human Rights Institute, and numerous programs and courses dedicated to this theme, Columbia University upholds a strong commitment to human rights teaching, research, and advocacy training. The Libraries’ commitment to the preservation of and access to human rights resources underlies our interest in addressing the crucial need to collect often ephemeral web-based content.