COVID-19 collections and resouces: An update for web archivists

May 14th, 2020

by Karl-Rainer Blumenthal, Web Archivist for Archive-It

Web archiving partners of all kinds are collecting the records of COVID-19 on the web. At the time of writing, nearly 200 distinct collections have already been created represent different aspects of the global crisis. Archive-It partners met in virtual groups over the last two weeks in order to introduce themselves, their collecting goals, questions, and ideas to one another. Those conversations are summarized very briefly below, along with reference points for advice and ongoing work of value to all web archivists.

Resources available


All current and new Archive-It partners can take advantage of special pricing for archival data storage in order to collect and preserve without limiting their scopes. Please contact the Archive-It team when we can help with unusual budget constraints, too.

Training and technical support

To accommodate the many enhanced and urgent needs to collect, the Archive-It team is also redoubling its commitment to live and on-demand support:

New web archivists can reference an enhanced and updated guide for new Archive-It software users

We’re adding additional Archive-It Office Hours to the calendar for those who can benefit from real-time advice and troubleshooting.

The Archive-It Advanced Training series of live webinars will continue to broadcast and record short classes on web archiving topics for partners and the general public. 

Direct help desk support will also continue through the Archive-It Help Center. All of the increased activity means that ticket traffic is a little more congested than normal, but we are adding to our capacity to respond there as well — stay tuned for an introduction to new teammates who can help you there soon!

Case studies

Beyond the raw web archiving materials, most partners and peers were eager to learn the lessons of prior efforts to archive difficult topics well and inclusively. Here on the Archive-It blog we have featured a few such experiences that help to revisit under these new circumstances:

Archiving and describing mass tragedy: A description of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada’s approach to archiving a sudden and tragic event in and with their community.  

Creating and following a web collecting policy in a public library: An introduction to collecting policies and practices that came out of similarly sudden and tragic events, including the East Baton Rouge Library’s advice for outreach and engagement. 

Unauthorized voices in the archive: Comprehensive advice from Middlebury College’s experience for working directly with college students to scope and create the web collections in their archives.

A Place for the Displaced: A short interview with a recently published author about her uses of and needs from web archives as primary sources to document Hurricane Katrina.

This list will grow as web archivists continue to collect and begin to share their COVID-19 archives.

What web archivists are collecting

COVID-19 web crawls and collections have increased vastly since the International Internet Preservation Consortium created the first and globe-spanning collection in February. >17 TB of web data have been stored from >35,000 seed URLs among the ~200 Archive-It collections known at the time of writing. Frequencies have also increased for many regularly scheduled web crawls, reflecting the need to capture more time-sensitive information in context. Partners agreed that the increased institutional priority and relative ease of web archiving from home both contributed to their intensity of focus over the last two months.  

Archive-It parters of all organizational types are collecting, and almost half of all collections record their own institutions’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example:

COVID-19 @ Arizona State University Response

Florida State University Coronavirus Archive

More collections document this moment in history from local or regional perspectives, like:

Chippewa Valley Covid-19 Response

Kansas City COVID-19 Outbreak

Southwest Michigan COVID-19 Coverage

Wisconsin Response to COVID-19

Others focus on specific themes or research questions, such as:

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the U.S. Church

Covid-19 and Smoking Web Archive

And a few live at the rich intersection of all of these above, like:

COVID-19 – Austin Presbyterian Community Response

Schomburg Center Novel Coronavirus COVID-19

We monitor new public collections like these for relevant naming and metadata. The Society of American Archivists’ Web Archiving Section has also shared a helpful spreadsheet to self-report and review others’ collecting. Both continue to grow and change rapidly. We look forward to providing a unified access point to all of public Archive-It collections about COVID-19, in order to inspire new kinds of discovery and analysis as well as to reduce duplications of effort. In the meantime, anyone can use Archive-It’s APIs and integrations to customize and enhance an access layer beyond the partners’ shared public website.

Find and share more

We will continue to collect and share web archivists’ stories here on the Archive-It blog, so please contact our team at the Internet Archive (ait at archive dot org)  if you have observations, recommendations, or questions for your colleagues.