New White House Web Site

President Barack Obama unveiled the “new” White House web site at 12:00 p.m. on Inauguration Day Tuesday, January 20, 2009.  When each new administration enters office, the White House web site gets a make-over. If President Obama’s web site develops along the more interactive lines of Web 2.0 technology, it will be exciting to watch and use as a research tool for presidential and gove rnment information.

What has happened to the information that was on the Bush and Clinton administration web sites?  White House records are governed by the Presidential Records Act of 1978, Pub. L. 95-591, 92 Stat. 2523-27, as amended by the National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984, Pub. L. 98-497, § 107(b)(7), 98 Stat. 2280-87 (1984) (codified at 44 U.S.C. §§ 2201-07).  The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is charged with preserving and archiving presidential records and the rules and practices regarding preserving actual web sites are still in flux.  Much of the material on the White House web site does not necessarily fit clearly within the statute and its regulatory counterpart (36 C.F.R. pt. 1270), which cover presidential documents and records that “relate to or have a direct effect upon the carrying out of constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.”

The Clinton administration developed the first White House web site in 1994, and took “snapshots” of each year’s version. Snapshots are from a single point in time.  No one updates the sites and the external links no longer work.  The historical pages sit “frozen in time.”  The five Clinton pages are available as part of the Clinton Presidential Library & Museum. The Bush administration sent NARA a snapshot of the Bush White House web page in mid-January 2009.  It is possible that the Bush administration preserved more views of its web pages and will make them available to researchers from the presidential archives, but for now it is this one shot in time.

It remains to be seen how the Obama administration will approach this issue: what will be preserved and how will it be presented?

The following links may provide the first glimpse of a new approach.








The White House Blog

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
Subject: Transparency and Open Government


Inside the Transition:  Technology, Innovation and Government Reform