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COVID-19 is changing the face of work — and these experts want to make sure the impacts aren’t lost on future generations

Concordia archivists offer tips for documenting these unprecedented times
October 6, 2020
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By Eric Côté, Emmanuelle Hoarau and Julie Daoust

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives greatly. Very little has remained the same since the public health emergency was declared back in March. Having to work remotely is one of the biggest changes many of us has had to deal with.

We are living truly extraordinary times. Some of the changes brought by the pandemic are temporary; others will be permanent. One thing is certain: we have to ensure we take the necessary steps to remember what has happened during the ongoing crisis. This will make sure the information is available for future researchers as well as help us prepare for similar situations that could arise again.

Concordia is starting to archive its documentation related to COVID-19 now using very simple steps. The following are tips and guidelines to make sure necessary precautions are taken to preserve the university’s institutional response to this global pandemic.

Documenting changes

Think of all the changes that COVID-19 has brought to your daily work — which is now remote! These changes are often discussed in departmental meetings, then documented in your work processes. You might have created informational material to communicate those changes to the student body or faculty and staff. 

If your department has experienced an increase (or a decrease) of clientele due to the closing of the university premises, you might have created statistics and reports. Maybe you have made presentations to explain the impact of your new procedures to your colleagues. All those activities related to changes at work should be documented and have potentially great historical value.

Here’s a shortlist of types of documents that deserve your special care:

  • Updated or new policies
  • Updated or new work processes and special guidelines linked to COVID-19
  • Minutes of meetings
  • Statistics related to COVID-19
  • Information material: notices to the community on your website, press releases, etc.
  • Material related to virtual events: promotional material, presentations and lists of attendees

When in doubt, do not hesitate to contact Records Management and Archives (RMA), where an archivist can recommend what to do with a document.

Think digital preservation

Chances are you are working remotely and the documents you now create are mostly digital. 

Just as with paper documents, digital records need to be handled with care. Digital preservation comes with its challenges. But Concordia has simple solutions to make sure your documents are backed up regularly and kept for posterity: store them on your departmental drive and name them correctly, for a quick and effective retrieval. We also suggest you organize your COVID-19-related folders under the 5110 ADMINISTRATIVE PLANNING category, as per the university’s Records Classification and Retention Plan (RCRP).

We recommend you avoid keeping records on your computer desktop, as a simple computer crash could make you lose everything! Instead, use your home drive or OneDrive to store your working files and save your final versions to your departmental drive by identifying them as such, if possible. Again, both home drives and departmental drives are backed up regularly and can be accessed easily through a VPN protocol. Feel free to contact Instructional and Information Technology Services should you need to have these tools set up. 

If your unit is currently using Microsoft Teams as a cooperation tool, have no worries: the files contained in Teams are all saved and backed up regularly. 

Zoom conferencing and recordings of meetings

The current circumstances have brought new expressions into our vocabulary (social distancing? flattening the curve?). Similarly, we are all now very familiar with Zoom, the popular web conferencing application.  

One of Zoom’s features is the recording of meetings. Your unit might be tempted to use it to keep track of what was said during a meeting. However, you have to be careful about which device does the recording and where the file is stored.

We recommend you name a person in your team that is responsible for the recording of your meetings. When you opt to record a meeting, web conferencing applications such as Zoom and Teams will prompt you to choose where to store it. We strongly suggest you save the recording on your departmental drive and avoid using the default Zoom servers. Recordings of meetings can be heavy files: we also recommend you ask yourself if the recording is necessary.

Note that the retention rule related to recordings of meetings require that they are securely destroyed after five years. You can refer to categories 4122 and 5242 in the RCRP for more details. The person in charge of the recordings should also be responsible for their handling and disposition. 

#AskAnArchivist Day on October 7

On Wednesday, October 7, RMA will host its second annual #AskAnArchivist Day on Twitter, and no doubt COVID-19 will be a hot topic! An initiative of the Society of American Archivists, the event is a chance for the general public to connect with archivists and records managers, ask questions and seek information on history, archives collections and best practices. 

Direct your questions to @CU_Archives on Twitter. Don't forget to use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. And rest assured you can reach out to us all year long by writing to records.management@concordia.ca.


Find out more about
Concordia’s Records Management and Archives.

 



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