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Special Interest Group Archive: Archives SIG 05/15/2020

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

May 15th Meeting

The meeting topic for this SIG was “Archiving the Present Moment”. The conveners were Nicole Scalessa and Laura Streett from Vassar College.


They created a resource document with tools to help archive the Covid-19 crisis. This doc is availble here:

The New York State Archives/DHPSNY is gathering information on COVID-19 documentation projects. If you are doing a project, they would like to hear from you:

Meeting Notes



Vassar’s scope: 

  • Vassar is archiving any websites that mention Vassar in relation to Covid-19 (using Archive-it, which is a paid service). 
  • Some sites (campus sites) are crawled weekly. 
  • On Vassar instagram - calling forward students to share images (being crawled regularly). 
  • The college twitter feeds and Covid-19 emails are being saved to pdf/a.
  • Vassar has an Engaged Pluralism Initiative (EPI) which works to collect voices in major issues on campus. (This was in place before Covid-19 happened). 


What are other institutions seeing as their scope? 

  • Photographing signs related to Covid-19 that were posted by local businesses, as well as fliers. Focused on the village. 
  • Town historian asking for fliers, memos, etc. to eventually create an exhibit highlighting the town.
  • Reaching out to the local community to see if there is anything they would like to share with the library to document their experience. 
  •  It can be challenging for county / village historians to gather broad information from towns. Lacking the outreach infrastructure that libraries often have. 
  •  It is also important to record the individual actions cultural institutions are taking in response to covid. This information will be useful for advocacy efforts. 
  • One historical Society has a local scope and is focusing on residents, businesses, and students from schools. They created a partnership with a local school to gather information. 
  • Some have taken the state questionnaire and adapted it to local uses. It can act as a snapshot. One method is to collect broadly and then later on sort things to fit a specific need. 
  • Asking high school students to journal their feelings and what they’ve been going through. Collecting newspapers and keeping a log that comes from the county. County-specific -- any emails from county executives, etc. Taking pictures of signs around town and sights specific to covid-19. 




  • Have to consider what your storage capacity is for items. 
  • Online tweets have some limitations. Twitter only gives you a report of the most recent tweets. 
  • You have to acrobat pro to convert items into pdf/A. Also looking into implementing another tool to validate the Pdf/ A. This can complete the metadata and make it into a fully formed document. 
  • E-pad for archiving email -- has an interface that can make some emails public. 
  • Screen-casting - use a program called AVS. Minimal subscription cost and it allows videos to be converted.


How do archive facebook posts?

  • It is possible to archive your own facebook account. 
  • Facebook doesn’t seem to want people archiving materials. 
  • Can do screenshots of facebook pages. 
  • You need permission to take captures of other people’s pages. 


Metadata -- do you create your own metadata standards or is there something universal that is used?

  • Metadata is created from the document itself. Certain software shows which metadata fields are. (Right now the primary focus is on collecting information and not metadata.) 


Are there any privacy concerns with collecting materials?

  • Focusing on things that are publicly available. 
  • Some facebook groups - people have been posting interesting and potentially useful pictures. Permission needs to be given to collect those materials. Working on a rights statement that would highlight what the library wants the materials for. (Emphasize that it’s going to be used by the library but respectfully for educational purposes.) 
  • is  a great resource to find rights language and information. 
  • A lot of the forms out there have language on rights in them. 
  • Have any forms reviewed by legal counsel if that is possible. 



  • They provide documentation for privacy and rights. They have a whole website available with a toolkit. 
  • In response to COVID-19, they developed StoryCorps Connect, a platform for recording interviews via video-conferencing technology.


How soon is too soon to discuss this with people? Don’t want to upset people if they are experiencing stress.

  • There are different sides to this; there are people who want to share right now. But there are also people who would like to wait and reflect on it later. 
  • Could encourage people to keep a journal and update it regularly. 
  • In the 1918 pandemic, there were a lot of people who didn’t want to talk about it once it had passed. 
  • Brooklyn historical society had a project where you could sign up and they would mail you a book for recording things. They sent back a digital copy and let you keep the physical one. 
  • Sent out an oral history questionnaire - a lot of people returned with photographs and memories. Important to share what is going to be done with the materials and what the overall value is. 


Connecting with schools: 


T The google doc with the SIG notes is available here.

Additional Resources

National Digital Stewardship Alliance has some great resources about digital preservation. It has a great matrix available for archiving to set goals for yourself and begin thinking about digital preservation. It also provides some information on digital files to test their integrity. 


A recording of the copyright webinar “Know Your Rights: Copyright Hacks for Educators and Librarians”. This covers several of the copyright sections, including Fair Use, and section 108, which focuses on reproduction rights for libraries and archives.


Library Journal article “Documenting the Pandemic: Libraries Launch COVID-19 Archival Projects”: 


Information from APHNYS on steps to start documenting Covid-19:


DHPSNY COVID-19 Information Aggregate. Check out the Impact section for resources for documentation projects.


Omeka sites with item submission feature:


A Journal of the Plague Year: an Archive of CoVid19



Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
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Phone: (845) 883-9065