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Behind the Scenes: Talk-‘Collecting in a Crisis: Rapid Response Web and Social Media Archiving’

A collaborative webinar, organised by the National Archives and Digital Repository of Ireland was held online on Wednesday 2 December 2020. The online webinar focused on rapid response web and social media archiving and is the last in this public lecture series on digital archiving.

The event was well attended with over 140 people logging on to hear insights on a subject that is evolving for the profession today. Digital archivists have played a vital role in the effort to document the COVID-19 pandemic as it has developed online. These collaborative efforts with other disciplines are ensuring that records of the social, cultural, and economic impact of this crisis are preserved for future generations.

The first speaker of the evening was Nicola Bingham, Lead Curator for Web Archives at the British Library, who described the work of the UK Web Archive, a partnership of six UK Legal Deposit Libraries that has been collecting websites reflecting the UK perspective of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Nicola talked us through what was collected following stipulations from non-print Legal Deposit Regulations. She discussed the tools and technologies they used including bespoke software like Annotation, Curation Tool (ACT) and Conifer which produces high fidelity archival recordings of websites.

She concluded with some lessons learned including encouraging co-curation, which highlighted how important collaborative work is when responding in a rapidly evolving situation.

Valerie Love, Senior Digital Archivist at Alexander Turnbull Library (a division of the National Library of New Zealand), spoke next, giving an overview of the work that the Library’s Digital Collecting and Legal Deposit teams have been doing to collect and preserve public responses to the crisis on social media platforms.

Valerie  spoke of setting up their Media Collecting Working Group which included Web Engineers, Technologists, Librarians and Digital Archivists. She talked us through their three phased approach in New Zealand beginning with a rapid response digital collecting from March to June, Outreach and Information Sharing from April to July and a collecting call for people to donate Covid-19 or Lockdown related material thereafter. She did stress that New Zealand’s experience of the crisis had guided this approach and they have lucky to have been back in the office since June to allow for more traditional collecting avenues to reopen.

Both speakers touched on the importance of diversity of the voices and material being collected and Nicola in particular spoke about the importance of being sensitive to ethical issues when collecting on a mass scale in a crisis. The scale of this endeavour was clear from both speakers and there was much to learn from both institutions.

For those unable to attend the webinar event, it was recorded and will be available to view on the Digital Repository of Ireland’s website shortly.

Patricia Fallon, Archivist

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