John Richan is digital archivist at Concordia’s Records Management and Archives
The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced many archivists to change how they work, and the staff at Concordia Records Management and Archives (RMA) are no different. The department is embracing new approaches to their archival projects and the challenges that come with working from home.
Toward the goal of documenting this demanding time, RMA has launched a web archiving initiative, led by Olivier Bisaillon-Lemay, records management assistant, to capture sites, blogs and articles linked to Concordia’s reaction and response to the pandemic.
Marie-Pierre Aubé, university archivist, stresses the value of this initiative. “We are in unprecedented times and this will probably change our institution from the way it was before the crisis,” she says.
“I think it is important to document and preserve Concordia’s web presence to ensure accessibility for future generations.”
The inspiration for this project was derived from similar ongoing web archiving initiatives taking place at the National Archives UK and the International Internet Preservation Consortium. In addition to these projects, web archiving has recently been featured in a New York Times article highlighting the work of the United States Library of Congress.
The goal of Concordia’s COVID-19 web archiving project is to preserve these often-ephemeral sites for their long-term informational value as well as their look and feel, which often provide additional context. These sites have been brought together and centralized in a COVID-19 web collection for those currently interested and for future researchers potentially focusing on Concordia’s digital footprint during this unprecedented time.
A secondary goal of the project is to open it to the wider Concordia community and incorporate a crowdsourcing element. Each week, through RMA’s social media channels, the department is encouraging faculty, staff and students to send along COVID-19 sites with a Concordia connection.
Although web archiving at RMA is not entirely new, the reality of staff now working from home has placed renewed focus on the department’s web archiving program. As of summer 2018, RMA has used the Archive-It platform to archive university sites — an effort linked to its mandate to preserve and make accessible the history of Concordia.
Over the last two years, RMA has archived more than one million documents and 177 GB of content related to Concordia. This content is broken down into the following five collections housed on Archive-It: Institutional Web Collection, University Publications, Student Associations and Groups, Sir George Williams Affair – 50th Anniversary, and the COVID-19 Collection.
Archiving and making these sites accessible through the Internet Archives’ Wayback Machine has already facilitated the work of archival researchers tracking information from inoperative sites.
A foundational aspect of the web archiving project from its inception was to seek participation from the Concordia community toward documenting the diversity of perspectives represented within the university during the COVID-19 pandemic. Promotion of the project currently includes a weekly social media campaign that highlights the collection of material and takes advantage of the #WebArchivingWednesday hashtag on Twitter.
RMA has also launched a web page promoting the project that encourages members of the community to get in touch with site URLs for the collection.
Between mid-March and early May, RMA captured 2.8 GB of content and more than 66,000 documents from the official university website as well as the student publications The Link and The Concordian.
Browse the Concordia COVID-19 web archiving collection.
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