404: File Not Found: Web Archives and the Challenges of Preserving Digital Film Promotion
In 2019 the Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Television published an article by Keith Johnston on the challenges of researching historical promotional materials. It concluded with an invitation to other researchers to take up the methodological issues related to their study. In the spirit of scholarly dialogue, this article responds to that invitation. It is part contribution, part sequel in that it focuses on a form of promotion that has emerged with the advent of the Internet – the film website; and part contribution in that it pitches into the discussion by considering the challenges of researching digital film promotion materials. Like many historical research projects, this investigation begins with the question of where, if at all, film websites are archived? So, this article starts with an examination of the archival record online. It considers the development of web archiving and the nature of the archive as it transforms from the physical to the digital. In the light of this history a selection of film promotion repositories are examined: the largest online archive in the world- the Internet Archive; a German museum initiative - DigitalCraft.Org; new kinds of archives like the Webby Awards and an enthusiast’s blog – Movie Marketing Madness. Through an investigation of these online archives, the contours of this promotional form emerge and the mapping of its historical development can commerce.