On Friday, May 18, 2001, the Web server of the International Institute of Social History received its two-millionth visitor since the beginning of operations in Spring 1996.
Though never a 'business card' page, the IISH site really started to draw attention at the end of that year, when both our first Webguide and our first virtual exhibition were mounted. Ever since, The Chairman Smiles, showing a selection of posters from the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, and Labour and Business History, a section of the World Wide Web Virtual Library, have been among the most accessed parts of the server. The third most popular page is ViVa, a current bibliography on women's history in historical and women's studies journals, to which we recently added another section of the WWW VL on Women's History and a Webguide to Sources for Women's History in the Institute's collections.
Obviously, the most important reason for opening a Web site was to improve access to our collections for researchers around the world. Almost from the start, our online catalogue was made available through telnet sessions. In 1999 we added a Web interface, which has less search capabilities, but is much easier to use. Although the OPAC contains not just books and serials but also image and archival data, a separate guide to the archival collections offers top-level descriptions of all archives and manuscript collections held by the Institute. Its pages are accessed many hundreds of times daily. This year we started making inventories and lists available in HTML and SGML. Over 200 inventories are online now.
Even before we bought our first server we began collecting digital records, in cooperation with the Antenna Foundation, mainly from Internet newsgroups under the aegis of the Association for Progressive Communications. The documents were stored in the Occasio Digital Social History Archive, which is directly available on the Web since 1999.
It goes without saying that the Netherlands Economic History Archive, the Netherlands Press Museum, and Sephis, the South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development, all housed in the IISH building, are also present on its server. But the IISH hosts other institutions and organizations such as the International Association of Labour History Institutions, the European Union Archive Network, and DivA, the umbrella organization for archives and records management in the Netherlands. Another highly successful service is provided by ArcheoBiblioBase, a directory of archival institutions in the Russian Federation maintained by Patricia Kennedy Grimsted in cooperation with Rosarkhiv, Russia's Federal Archival Service. Lastly, Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages, hosted on the Institute's server, continue to draw large numbers of visitors.
In April and May 2000 the website was redesigned and restructured. A new screen layout was introduced, navigational structures were improved. The number of visitors continued to grow fast:
That our work is being used and appreciated on such a scale encourages us in our efforts to do more and to do better.