The Internet Archive has been hit by a fire at its San Francisco scanning centre, taking the site temporarily offline and resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and an as-yet unknown quantity of physical materials.

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organisation which aims to be a digital library for all content, both physical and ephemeral. The site boasts permanent storage of more than 10 petabytes of data, from entire cached websites - part of its Wayback Machine project - to videos, audio, text and software. The organisation also works to preserve physical materials, creating electronic copies through a volunteer-driven scanning project while permanently storing the originals in a physical archive.

It's in one of these scanning centres, located in San Francisco, that a fire broke out early yesterday. Thankfully, the building wasn't occupied at the time and nobody has been hurt - but the damage is significant. An electrical run knocked out power to the Archive's main site, downing the website temporarily, but left most damage confined to the scanning centre itself.

The Archive estimates that around $600,000 in high-end scanning and digitisation equipment has been lost in the fire, a major blow for the non-profit and donation-funded organisation. The scanning building itself also needs serious repair - or, if a post-fire analysis proves it necessary, even complete rebuilding. Worse still, the fire consumed physical materials that were awaiting scanning - although the Archive states that around half the materials in the building had already been scanned, while the bulk of its collection was safe in a separate and unaffected locked room or in its physical archive facility.

The organisation has turned to the community for help in getting the project back on its feet, posting a plea for donations to rebuilt its scanning capabilities and additional volunteers to help pick up the slack at its secondary scanning site.

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