The Internet Archive’s headquarters in San Francisco caught fire early Wednesday morning, damaging equipment, and destroying some of the materials being archived.
A spark from one of the scanners is thought to be the cause of the two-alarm fire, which began around 3:30 a.m. It was under control an hour and a half later, according to early media reports. No one was injured, and no damage to the already digitized materials resulted.
But, the Archive did not escape completely unscathed. Early estimates suggested that about $600,000 worth of “high end” digitization equipment will require replacement, according to a written statement by Brewster Kahle, the organization’s digital librarian. The library’s scanning room, which was damaged in the fire, must also be rebuilt.
Most of the physical materials undergoing digitization were stored elsewhere, but the blaze did manage to consume some of them. Of the materials lost, about half were already scanned.
“We are working with our library partners to assess [the damage],” Kahle wrote.
Fortunately, the entire library is duplicated at “multiple” locations, and Kahle said even if the main building had been involved in the fire, all the “amazing content we have all worked so hard to collect” would not be lost.
The non-profit Internet Archive was founded in 1996 and aims to build a digital collection of historical documents with permanent access for scholars and the general public. It hosts the website Archive.org, which receives about three million visitors daily.
The collection includes millions of text, audio, moving images, and software records. It’s probably most widely known for the Way Back Machine, an archive of the world wide web that contains about 364 billion web pages, including several special collections.
The Internet Archive is asking for donations to help repair the damage and continue digitizing documents.
While the facility is being repaired, the small staff of about 10 will relocate to the Richmond, Calif. facility.
The fire also displaced eight residents who lived in a building adjacent to the non-profit’s 110 Clement St. headquarters.