Restoring the Hall. The story of a thankless task.


This is Leem speaking, and I'd like to bore regale you all with the tale of how I managed to get the Hall of Statuary back on the internet.

I suppose it first occurred to me about a year ago. As you ought to be aware, I've posted cached versions of other classic ASFR sites like Statuephile and The Living Mannequin Circle, and The Hall of Statuary seemed like an obvious choice to join them - assuming that I could obtain A) Argo's permission to do it, and B) all of the original files.

Well, taking the second issue first: as it happened, I'd already managed to find copies of the homepage, or Main Hall as it's officially known, but tracking down the rest of the site was a bit more problematical. The obvious place to start looking was the Internet Archive. I've always had a love-hate relationship with that site, in roughly equal proportions. It can be a great place to find lost and forgotten treasures of the web, but it can just as easily let you down with a dull thud by failing to locate the pages and images you're most desperate to find. Of course, in order to use the IA in the first place you need to input the site's original URL(s), which meant Googling: "argoforg" "hall of statuary"; in order to find old references to it.

It turned out that the HoS had had several addresses over the years, and was hosted on more than one server. That obviously made sense back in the days when webhosts only offered limited space, but it complicated the search because some of the servers had either been overlooked by the IA or were snotty about letting it cache their archives. Finding the Fiction index pages wasn't too difficult, and I knew that if any of the stories were missing I could almost certainly find copies at the LTBSA. Unfortunately, Page 4 was incomplete. The HTML code cut off dead halfway through the Fiction Archive Key, and I had absolutely no way of telling what stories, if any, should have been included. Disaster!

The Art and Image pages were even more problematical. It took a while, but I finally retrieved all of the pieces of the Index Page mosaic. That gave me the links to all seven image pages - the trouble was, pages 6 and 7 (the Stone II and HOS Select pages) were on a different server from the rest, and for a long time it seemed as if IA didn't have them. Disaster number two!

At about this time I'd also begun asking around about the missing pages and images. It turned out that Hepzibah had some of the HoS backup files, which he kindly sent me. Unfortunately, he didn't have the Stone II or HoS Select pages either. Finally, almost in desperation, I did another IA search, and finally found the one place where they'd cached not only the missing pages but also many of the accompanying images. Those two pages had no thumbnails, but that didn't matter because I could always make new ones from the full-size art.

Hepzibah's version of the Fiction Archive Page 4 was unfortunately also corrupt, but luckily his files also included numerous stories that weren't listed on the other pages. The obvious conclusion was that those were the stories were intended for Page 4, and possibly also a few that hadn't been added by the time Argo stopped updating the site. Disaster averted! I could build a new Page 4 by figuring out the right icon to go with each story and arranging them in some kind of semi-logical order. As far as the other pages went, Page 5 was originally a bit short, but since it only included the first five parts of Cobalt Jade's Tale of Lassok and Zairbhreena, it was a bit of a no-bhreena... sorry, -brainer... to add the remaining five, together with four other roughly contemporary CJ stories. Likewise, Page 1 only included the first two parts of Rodin's Quint-Quarts series, so in went Part Three, and after due consideration I also decided to add the six Nova stories that hadn't previously appeared on Page 3.

Well, OK, that was the Fiction Archive taken care of. There were still a lot of missing image files. Hepzibah's collection supplied a few, but not as many as I'd hoped. The next logical place to look was the Medusa Realm site, to see if they were duplicated there. Unfortunately, the MR also had numerous missing files following a server crash. I also tried various Yahoo! Groups, but had no joy. One of them infuriatingly mentioned having deleted a lot of files because they were duplicated on the Hall of Statuary! I felt like I was hitting my head against a brick wall (mainly because by that time I was, out of sheer frustration).

Then I had an incredible stroke of luck. In August 2011, probably just as a technical exercise, somebody posted a temporary mirror of several sites, including the MR, complete with almost all of the missing files, and by the merest coincidence I happened to find it! Well, as it happened I didn't have a site ripper program at the time, and I had no idea how long the mirror would stay online, so I spent a couple of days feverishly copying the lost images. In the event it was up for about three weeks before disappearing.

(At the time of writing Dmuk hasn't restored the missing images to the current MR site, but I'm certain that one way or another they will get reposted.)

Once I'd finished downloading the images, and had soaked my aching fingers for a while, I was able to find the ones that had also been on the HoS and restore them. That still left quite a few gaps, however, so it was time to resume my enquiries.

The one person I hadn't asked up to this point was Argo himself. Who knew, he might be able to supply some of the missing material himself as well as (hopefully) giving his blessing to the project. Well, it took me a little while to get a reply - the only contact address I had was his deviantART page, and there I discovered he was busy doing some kind of marriage thing. When he did reply it was good news and bad news - yes, I could repost the site, but no, he didn't have any files. As he said in his reply: "Most of those have been lost in various moves/HD crashes/purges/website hacks/lack of money to upkeep a site-type situations, and I doubt I even have most of them anymore."

Well, be that as it may, the site had been officially greenlit and I'd found all of the stories and most of the images. Some enquiries at various message boards and Yahoo! Groups yielded a few more. It was time to act!

So what did I do? I didn't act! I shillied and shallied and dillied and dallied and... well, to cut a long story short, if I hadn't been put off by numerous distractions the site would have been up at least three months earlier. Nevertheless, here it finally is in almost all its glory. There are still some missing images, especially on the Freeze Gallery, and as always if anybody's got copies lurking on their hard drives then please get in touch.

The final task, more or less, was to edit the Main Hall. There wasn't much point retaining the buttons for the Hall of Statuary Message Board (because it ain't been there any more for a long time now), the Submissions page (because however some of us may like submission, this site is just an archive now and isn't accepting any), and the Statue Lover's Guide to Games (because that page was never posted). I've kept the Links/ASFR Sites page, while noting which links work and which don't, and of course I've added a button linking to this page. (Wait a minute - I didn't have a text-free button to work from, so how did I make a new one? Heh. Maybe I'll tell you some day.)

Well, that's pretty much it. Have I forgotten anything? Probably, but I've kept you long enough. Hepzibah's files did contain several images that weren't in the existing galleries, so you may be seeing them here at some future date.

Thanks to Argo for creating the site and allowing me to go ahead with this restoration (plus belated congratulations on his wedding and every best wish for the future); to everyone who's knowingly or unknowingly helped me to track down missing files; and to all of the original site contributors. If you have any comments, questions or critiques about the restored Hall of Statuary, please feel free to drop me a line. Thanks for listening.