Archiving online references about the corona crisis

2 Apr 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on our daily lives. We’ve never experienced a time like this before, and we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives. As people working in cultural heritage, we need to keep a record of these unprecedented times for future generations. And we need to make sure we don’t forget online references – on websites and social media. Here’s how you can help.

We’re relying on digital resources and online information both to protect ourselves and continue with our daily lives in this unprecedented situation. We’re using various digital channels – such as websites, social media, blogs, videos and photos – to communicate with each other, and these are all valuable sources of information that we’ll need in the future when we want to look back on what life was like during this exceptional time.

Screenshot of news report on VVBAD website

Unfortunately, they’re also very transient and fragile resources. If we don’t record them today, they will disappear quickly – some of them even before the crisis is over.

Time for action

Capturing this online content about the corona crisis and preserving it sustainably is the first requirement for ensuring it remains accessible as a reference in the long term. Our colleagues from the Dutch Digital Heritage Network have set up the ‘digital coronavirus collection in the Netherlands’ campaign with the aim of preserving digital coronavirus reports in the Netherlands.

In Belgium, the Flemish Library and Archive Association (VVBAD) launched the comprehensive #AQA, Archives de Quarantaine Archief (Quarantine Archive) initiative together with its French-speaking sister organisation, AAFB. It is using this platform to encourage archiving services to set up and highlight special corona crisis archive campaigns. The platform is also being used to collect information about previous archiving campaigns around specific historical events and civic initiatives in the context of the corona crisis. Some cultural heritage institutions have also started their own campaigns already, such as FelixArchief (Antwerp City Archive), Brussels Archives and Ghent Archives.

What can you do?

o you want to help by archiving websites, but don’t know how to go about it? Then make sure you have a look at the user guides for archiving websites on our CEST and TRACKS knowledge platforms. CEST also has documentation about the ‘Catching the digital heritage’ web archiving project by Amsab-ISG and Liberas, where you can find useful information about tools, good metadata practices and legal implications relating to the archiving of websites.

Consultation is essential to prevent different people from capturing and preserving the same online references and perhaps overlooking other significant ones – you need to collaborate with other organisations and share your knowledge and skills.

Even if it’s not possible for you to archive websites, you can still make a useful contribution by adding important websites about the corona crisis to the IIPC submission form (International Internet Preservation Consortium). They will then be added to a worldwide collection managed by the Internet Archive. This collection already contains 4000 sites in almost 40 languages.

What is meemoo doing?

We’re busy updating and expanding our user guides about archiving websites so that we can support you even better. If you are a cultural heritage worker with questions about archiving online resources about the corona crisis, please contact us for advice:

We’re also consulting with a number of our content partners and other interested parties about what actions we can take together to ensure that valuable Belgian online resources about the corona crisis are properly archived.

And of course we’re also continuing to add our content partners’ digital content into the meemoo archive system. We’re sustainably preserving digital audio, video and photo content about the corona crisis from their archives and collections, and making it publicly available to specific target audiences (such as teachers and students) where possible.

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