Special Collections and University Archives

By Jessica Dame

As part of its ongoing work to document the history of UNCG, University Archives has been archiving campus websites since 2015. Following the University’s early announcements and response regarding the monitoring of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in March 2020, the University Archives began archiving the University’s COVID-19 related web content.

Shortly thereafter, Archive-It, a web archiving service for collecting and accessing cultural heritage on the web, presented the COVID-19 Web Archiving Special Campaign. This campaign was an opportunity for subscription holders (and new potential subscribers) to expand their web archiving data to archive their institutional and community COVID-19 related web content. The data expansion provided an opportunity to archive COVID-19 resources and responses, and capture a snapshot in time of how entities responded and communicated with their communities during the pandemic.

After receiving the Archive-It data expansion, the Triad COVID-19 Collection was born. The scope of the collection included web content (websites, web pages, born-digital documents, and social media) created by county government, schools and universities, non-profit organizations, and community initiatives. Possible topics included COVID-19 origins, information about the spread of infection, regional or local containment efforts, and a variety of aspects that affected communities (medical, economic, social, etc.). Selection of web content was a group effort among SCUA in which many volunteered their time to research potential web content to include one county at a time.

Due to the urgent nature of the collection, web content was immediately evaluated for scope and archived as early as mid-May. Some collection content was archived monthly, while others were archived only once (including YouTube videos and born-digital documents). It was not until after selected content was captured that the University Archives began to reach out to creators and site-owners regarding permissions. The University Archives employed an “opt-out” approach, notifying site-owners about the collection and the crawls so that they may decline to be included if they preferred.

Currently the Triad COVID-19 Collection includes 149 unique pieces of web content. A highlight from the collection captures the importance of web archiving. Project Mask WS was a mask sewing initiative in Winston-Salem created in response to the pandemic. According to the Project Mask WS website, they are a group of 1000+ volunteers who create masks for medical personnel and front line workers who could not obtain n95 masks. The website features an introduction to the project, images, and examples of their impact, but it expired sometime in mid-July. The group’s online presence is now exclusively on Facebook. While the initiative lives on, without web archiving, the origins of this project are potentially lost.

The Triad COVD-19 Collection aims to capture how the Triad community is using and experiencing the web during the global pandemic.

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