Collaborative collecting: It’s a piece of KAIC

August 24th, 2016

by Jillian Lohndorf

This is the second in Archive-It’s ongoing series of discussions with partners who join forces, collaborate, and share resources to archive the web. For Part 1, see Better Together: Collaborative web archiving at IIPC. For this installment, Archive-It Web Archivist Jillian Lohndorf speaks with Kansas State University Archivist Cliff Hight about the formation and early work of the Kansas Archive-It Consortium (KAIC), a collaboration among KSU, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, the Kansas Historical Society, University of Kansas, and Washburn University.

When Cliff Hight started at Kansas State University in 2011, he had requirements on the mind.  As University Archivist, he wanted to make sure he was collecting institutional documents in compliance with policies already in place, so he reached out to the State Archives Director, and that conversation soon turned to how to collaborate in general.  In 2013 the Kansas Historical Society invited their colleagues at public Kansas universities to talk about web archiving, and the group soon resolved to tackle the issue together. First thinking of calling themselves the Kansas Web Archiving Collaborative (KWAC), they soon settled on the Kansas Archive-It Consortium (KAIC), and the outcome has been pretty sweet! I recently sat down with Cliff to learn their recipe.


Kansas Archive-It Consortium (KAIC) Partners


Jillian Lohndorf: What benefit(s) did the participating institutions see in joining forces to build web archives together, considering their diverse interests?

Cliff Hight: In Kansas, other institutions were experimenting with web archiving as early as 2000, so this wasn’t a whim. It was a lot about timing. Everyone was ready to do this at the same time, and a big driver at that time was collection development; we could do a more effective job of collecting if we worked together. Basically, we are seeking to apply the archival theory of the documentation strategy in the web environment.


JL: Does KAIC have any guidelines for how to identify specific content to archive?

CH: We are sharing our institutions’ current collection development guidelines, even if they aren’t for web archiving. Three of the institutions also collect materials documenting Kansas life and culture, so they can delve into sub-topics.  But since a few of the institutions only have one person working in their archives, with limited time and resources for web archiving, we have decided to emphasize collection development for web content. In October we will meet to explore our options and hopefully hammer out some details. We are also exploring how to apply collaboration to other areas beyond web archiving.


JL: KAIC is made up of a diverse group of institutions. How do you handle differences in knowledge and technical proficiency?

CH: We share documents. One example is a shared spreadsheet for seeds in which each institution has its own tab. It’s how we avoid overlap. We also share our institutional metadata guidelines for local modification by other repositories, and we share articles on web archiving topics. We have quarterly conference calls and occasional face-to-face meetings, for troubleshooting and updates on progress.


JL: How does collaborative collecting change how you use Archive-It?

CH: It hasn’t really changed anything yet because most KAIC members have focused their collecting around our own institutions, but it likely will change in the coming months, as we start to delve into thematic collections. One of the benefits of Archive-It is the flexibility that participants have with scoping their crawls in collaborative ways. Also, because some of the member institutions had prior—and positive—experiences with Archive-It, we believed the program would provide us a stable system with a strong support element that our members would need.


From Kansas State University’s Military History Web Archive

From Kansas State University’s Military History Web Archive


JL: How have the benefits of collaborative collecting lined up to your expectations so far? And the challenges?

CH: Using Archive-It strengthens what we can do with electronic content, and it helps capture more essential documentation, such as government and public records, or hot button topics that can easily disappear. The consistency of using the same product strengthens the work we can do. The challenges are around a lack of resources and limited technical knowledge, which is why it was important for us to have a support option. But we are willing to accept those challenges.

In terms of larger collaborations, we have pointed to New York Art Resource Consortium (NYARC) for documentation, but haven’t really tried to partner with other groups yet since KAIC members are still testing and developing our web archives. Hearing how other groups work gives us ideas, such as how to develop strategies to encourage participation from other Kansas institutions, and these ideas help us stay focused on our mission of appropriately preserving and making accessible web content that aligns with the collecting areas of the respective institutions and more fully documents the web experience of Kansans.