Japan Disaster Archives: Collaboration for successful web archiving

February 28th, 2013

by Lori Donovan, Partner Specialist

In late January, Kristine Hanna and I spoke at the Opportunities and Challenges of Participatory Digital Archives Conference at Harvard University, hosted by Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. This two day conference focused on work done by the Japan Disaster Archive (JDArchive) and those archiving digital and/or physical materials around the March 2011 Japan Disaster and its aftermath, and efforts to make the archived content more accessible and useful for those affected by this event, researchers, as well as the public at large.


The JD Archive collection includes social media and first hand accounts uploaded to sites like Youtube.com.

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The Japan Disaster (JD) Archive homepage

My presentation focused on the Archive-It collection on the Japan Earthquake, which was started on March 11, 2011 by our partners at Virginia Tech University, and initially included primarily western news articles.  In the days, weeks, and months after the disaster, we received website nominations from colleagues at Japan’s National Diet Library, the U.S. Library of Congress, and the Reischauer Institute that included a wide range of content types, including Japanese national and local news coverage, government websites, and social media around the event, its aftermath and the ongoing recovery efforts.  To date, this collection has archived 18,478 websites, 117,000,000 documents and 6.5 TB of data.

Lori Donovan presents at Harvard University’s Opportunities and Challenges of Participatory Digital Archives Conference.

We were very excited to participate in the Harvard conference and to have Archive-It content included in the JDArchive. We have long been committed to archiving spontaneous events like the Japan Earthquake and other natural or manmade disasters and political uprisings, many of which are unfolding on the web in real time (see the Occupy Movement and Earthquake in Haiti collections). The JDArchive brings together a variety of different types of digital content from subject matter experts, archivists, catalogers and academics in Japan and abroad; as well as engineers and programmers who develop analytical tools to make the content useful and accessible, focusing on reuse of the materials. We hope this innovative and inclusive model can serve as a template for future projects of this nature.