Web archiving and public knowledge: Collaborating with Vancouver Island Archive-It partners

June 5th, 2018

by Caron Rollins, Matt Huculak, and Dana McFarland

Three librarians from two Archive-It partner institutions shared their web archiving insights and sought feedback from their local colleagues at the fourth annual Vancouver Island Library Staff Conference. Carol Rollins (Law and Government Publications Librarian, University of Victoria), Matt Huculak (Digital Scholarship Librarian, University of Victoria), and Dana McFarland (Librarian & Coordinator, E-Resources & Scholarly Communication, Vancouver Island University) presented: “Web Archiving & Public Knowledge in Our Regions: Collections & Communities, Transformations & Relationships.” Our goal was to raise awareness about web archiving, how it works, who can be involved, and the special importance of collaborative efforts when building community-based thematic collections.  Logo for the 2018 Vancouver Island Library Staff Conference

We discussed different potential roles for culture and memory institutions in emerging regional and national web archiving initiatives, and for the Vancouver Island Libraries in particular. We emphasized that this new kind of collecting work will be increasingly critical to representing and reflecting the transforming and ephemeral nature of local public knowledge and discourse.

Diagram of web archiving relationships among local, regional, and national partners

Emerging roles and relationships for Vancouver Island libraries, culture and memory institutions in regional and national web archiving.

This afforded us the opportunities to introduce the considerations that collectors confront when creating a thematic collecting scope in particular, including the technical work in involved in creating “happy” seed lists. Specific thematic examples discussed to illustrate these points with a local context included the University of British Columbia’s B.C. Wildfires 2017 to which several universities contributed seeds, and UVic’s B.C. Provincial Candidates 2017 collection, an outcome of a collaboration started at BC Gov Info Day 2017 at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, and a case of using–or trying to use–online political party resources to build comprehensive seed lists.

Quote by Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy: First web archivist?

Concerns and areas for further research and collaboration were also raised, such as needs for policies on notifying site owners, and specifically the potential of web archiving to recolonize if collecting Indigenous content is undertaken without care to form and maintain relationships with creators, guided in our practice by recommendations of CFLA’s Report(PDF) on the recommendations of Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission and by principles of OCAP™. To demonstrate the decisions, potentials, and pitfalls, we closed by enlisting attendees in curating the seed list for a web archive of the conference itself.

The collaborations will continue. All of this panel’s participating librarians are, for instance, eager to now work with Indigenous communities in order to create OCAP™-compliant web archives that reflect their perspectives and contributions. VIU looks forward to building on existing partnerships in the mid-Island to define regionally-significant web archiving projects, while UVic are interested to learn what else we could collect to further our teaching, research, and community collaborations, such as the B.C. Teachers’ Labour Dispute collection.

In conclusion, although a number of BC universities now have substantial experience with web archiving, we are at the beginning of our collaborative endeavours. As we build our web archiving community, and communities of practice, locally, regionally, and nationally, we expect to refine our emerging understandings about how to most effectively build collections, share capacity, advocate for resources, define policy and best practices, and more. In order to archive the web, we will have to work together as networked yet local communities to capture our future digital heritage. By expanding our duties as Collections Librarians to create “seed collections,” and by partnering with and training colleagues in local communities to do this work as well, we will help provide the research collections of the future.