The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced many archivists to change how they work, and the staff at Concordia University Records Management and Archives (RMA) are no different. RMA is embracing new approaches to their archival projects and the challenges that come with working from home. Toward the documentation of this demanding time, RMA has launched a web archiving initiative, led by Records Management Assistant Olivier Bisaillon-Lemay, to capture sites, blogs, and articles linked to Concordia’s reaction and response to the pandemic. The inspiration for this project was derived from similar on-going web archiving projects taking place at the National Archives of the 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 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 provides additional contextual value. 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.
Figure 1: Concordia University COVID-19 Web Collection
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. Web archiving at Concordia Although web archiving at RMA is not entirely new, the reality of archives staff now working from home has placed renewed focus on the RMA web archiving program. As of summer 2018, RMA has used the Archive-It platform to archive university sites – an effort linked to RMA’s mandate to preserve and make accessible the history of the University. Over the last two years, RMA has archived over one million documents and 177GB of content related to Concordia University. 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.
Figure 2: Concordia University Records Management and Archives (RMA) Data Archived
Archiving, and making these sites accessible through Internet Archives and Wayback Machine, has already facilitated the work of archival researchers tracking information from inoperative sites.
A foundational aspect of the 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 page advertising the project that encourages members of the community to get in touch with site URLS for the collection.
Between mid-March and early-April, 2020, RMA captured 538MB and over 21,000 documents from the official University website and student publications The Link and The Concordian.
Browse the Concordia COVID-19 web collection at: https://archive-it.org/collections/13662
John Richan is the Digital Archivist in Records Management and Archives at Concordia University, Montreal, where his primary responsibilities are tied to digital preservation activities. John holds a MLIS from McGill University with a specialization in Archives. His professional interests include working open source applications and systems into digital preservation workflows.
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