I have extolled the virtues of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine previously, as a magic means of finding material that you probably thought (and sometimes wished) was long lost: in that instance it was my old Ebola news pages.
“So how does one even approach the problem of constructing a history of any particular corpus of web-published material?”
The Wayback Machine, it appears is an answer. Not THE answer, because there are still holes in its coverage, but here is an example of how many iterations there are of archives of my Web-based PCR Methods teaching pages:
Right back to 2004! The teaching material goes back to 1997, along with my primitive efforts at a Departmental Web page – like the old Department of Microbiology, all my pages are now defunct
Defunct. Deceased. No longer with us. Except…
I find, to my joy, that you CAN in fact get to nearly all of it, and backed up as recently as March 2014, via this link:
Might not be completely back from the dead, but it’s a reasonable facsimile – and it means that if anyone was using it, they can continue to do so – while I sort out new versions, and new addresses.
And, of course, finish my book based on it…B-)