Internet Archive seeks donations to rebuild after San Francisco blaze

The San Francisco-based Internet Archive is seeking donations to help recover from a fire that gutted one of its buildings and caused more than $1 million in damage.

A two-alarm blaze broke out at the nonprofit archive’s scanning center in San Francisco’s Richmond District early Wednesday morning. No one was hurt, but eight residents from an apartment building next door were displaced.

The Internet Archive, established in 1996, stores archived web pages and digitized books, films and music in a free online library containing more than 10 petabytes of data (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000 bytes). Among its most popular features is the Wayback Machine, an archive of more than 340 billion web pages going back almost 20 years (hey, here’s Silicon Beat in 2005!).

No data was lost in the fire, but the organization said in a blog post that some materials that had not yet beet scanned were lost. “This episode has reminded us that digitizing and making copies are good strategies for both access and preservation,” the group said.

The part of the archive that burned was a small storefront; the archive’s headquarters, a former church adjacent to the storefront, survived mostly unscathed.

“We’re going to have to rebuild the scanning center,” founder Brewster Kahle told KTVU. “We operate 30 scanning centers in eight countries, so we’re one out of many.” The San Francisco Fire Department estimated damage to the building at $500,000. The Internet Archive said an additional $600,000 in high-end digitization equipment — mainly scanners and cameras — was destroyed.

“It’s a bummer,” Kahle told Mashable.

The Internet Archive is reaching out to supporters for help, asking for donations to help rebuild its scanning capabilities and to continue its work at an alternate facility.

UPDATE: The Internet Archive had previously scheduled a fund-raising hackathon and reception in memory of Aaron Swartz, the late open-access advocate, at its San Francisco headquarters Friday night. That event will go on as scheduled, office manager Chris Butler said. Butler also said the group has seen a significant increase in donations in the wake of Wednesday’s fire, “for which we are exceedingly grateful and very much hope … continues.”


Photo courtesy John Murphy


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