The Danish Coronavirus web collection – Coronavirus on the curators’ minds

By Sabine Schostag, Web Curator, The Royal Danish Library

Introduction – a provoking cartoon

In a sense, the story of Corona and the national Danish Web Archive (Netarchive) starts at the end of January 2020 – about 6 weeks before Corona came to Denmark. A cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesens in the Danish newspaper “Jyllandsposten” (2020-01-26) showing the Chinese flag with a circle of yellow corona-viruses instead of the stars caused indignation in China and captured attention worldwide. We focused on collecting reactions on different social media and in the international news media. Particularly on Twitter, a seething discussion arose with vehement comments and memes about Denmark.

From epidemic to pandemic

After that, the curators again focused on the daily routines in web archiving, as we believed that Corona (Covid-19) was a closed chapter in Netarchive’s history. But this was not the case. When the IIPC Content Development Working Group launched the Covid-19 collection in February, the Royal Danish Library contributed the Danish seeds.

Suddenly, the Corona virus arrived in Europe and the first infected Dane came home from a skiing trip in Italy. The epidemic turned into a pandemic. On March 12, the Danish Government decided to lockdown the country: all public employees where sent to their home offices and borders were closed. Not only the public sector shut down, trade and industry, shops, restaurants, bars etc. had to close too. Only supermarkets were still open and people in the Health Care sector had to work overtime.

While Denmark came to a standstill, so to speak, the Netarchive curators worked at full throttle on the coronavirus event collection. Zoom became the most important work tool for the following 2½ months. In daily Zoom meetings, we coordinated who worked on which facet of this collection. To put it briefly, we curators had coronavirus on our minds.

Event crawls in Netarchive

The Danish Web Archive crawls all Danish news media between several times daily and one time weekly, so there is no need to include news articles in an event crawl. Thus, with an event crawl we focus on augmented activity on social media, blog articles, new sites emerging in connection to the event – and reactions in news media outside Denmark.

Coronavirus documentation in Denmark

The Danish Web collection on coronavirus in Denmark is part of a general documentation on the corona lockdown in Denmark in 2020. This documentation is a cooperation between several cultural institutions, the National Archives (Rigsarkivet), the National Museum (Nationalmuseet), the Workers Museum (Arbejdermuseet), local archives and, last but not least, the Royal Danish Library. The corona lockdown documentation was supposed to be done in two steps:  the “here and now” collection of documentation under the corona lockdown and a more systematic follow-up by collecting materials from authorities and public bodies.

“Days with Corona” – a call for help

All Danes were asked to contribute to the corona lockdown documentation, for instance by sending photos and narratives from their daily life under the lockdown. “Days with Corona” is the title of this part of the documentation of the Danish Folklore Archives run by the National Museum and the Royal Library.

Netarchive also asked the public for help by nominating URLs of web pages related to coronavirus, social media profiles, hashtags, memes and any other relevant material.

Help from colleagues

Web archiving is part of the Department for Digital Cultural Heritage at the Royal Library. Almost all colleagues from the department were able to continue with their every day work from their home offices. Many colleagues from other departments were not able to do so. Some of them helped the Netarchive team by nominating URLs, as this event crawl could keep curators busy more than 7½ hours a day. We used a Google spreadsheet for all nominations (fig. 1)

Fig. 1 Nomination sheet for curators and colleagues form other departments and a call for contributions.

The Queen’s 80th birthday

On April 16, Queen Margarethe II celebrated her 80th birthday. One of the first things she did after the Corona lockdown, on March 13, was to cancel all her birthday celebration events. In a way, she set a good example, as everybody was asked not to meet with no more than ten people, ideally we only should socialize with members of our own household.

As part of the Corona event crawl, we collected web activity related to the Queen’s birthday, which mainly consisted of reactions on social media.

The big challenge – capturing social media

Knowledge of the coronavirus Covid-19 changes continuously. Consequently, authorities, public bodies, private institutions, and companies change information and precaution rules on their webpages frequently. We try to capture as much of these changes as possible. Companies and private individuals offering safety gear for protection against the virus was another facet in the collection. However, capturing all relevant activity on social media was much more challenging than the frequent updates on traditional web pages. Most of the social media platforms use technologies, which Heritrix (used by Netarchive for event crawling) is not able to capture.

Fig. 2 The Queen’s speech to the Danes on how to cope with the corona crisis. This was the second time in history (the first time was during the World War II) when a Royal Head of State addressed  the nation, besides the annual New Year’s Eve speech.

More or less successfully, we tried to capture content from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit, Imgur, Soundcloud, and Pinterest. Twitter is the platform we are able to crawl with Heritrix with rather good results. We collect Facebook profiles with an account at Archive-It, as they have a better set of tools for capturing Facebook. With frequent Quality Assurance and follow-ups, we also get rather good results from Instagram, TikTok and Reddit. We capture YouTube videos by crawling the watch-URLs with a specific configuration using YouTube dl.  One of the collected YouTube videos comes from the Royal family’s YouTube channel: the Queens address to the people on how to behave to prevent or limit the spreading of the coronavirus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZKVUQ-E-UI, Fig. 2).

As Heritrix has problems with dynamic web content and streaming, we also used Webrecorder.io, although we have not yet implemented this tool in our harvesting setup. However, captures with Webrecorder.io are only drops in the ocean. The use of Webrecorder.io is manual: a curator clicks on all the elements on a page we want to capture. An example is a page on the BBC website, with a video of the reopening of Danish primary schools after the total lockdown (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-52649919/coronavirus-inside-a-reopened-primary-school-in-the-time-of-covid-19, Fig. 3). There is still an issue with ingesting the resulting WARC files from Webrecorder.io in our web archive.

Danes produced a range of podcasts on coronavirus issues. We crawled the podcasts we had identified. We get good results when having an URL to a RSS feed, which we crawl with XML extraction.

Fig. 3 Crawled with Webrecorder.io to get the video.

Capture as much as possible – a broad crawl

Netarchive runs up to four broad crawls a year. We launched our first broad crawl for 2020 just in the beginning of the Danish Corona lockdown – on March 14. A broad crawl is an in-depth snapshot of all dk-domains and all other Top Level Domains (TDLs) where we have identified Danish content. A side benefit of this broad crawl might be getting Corona-related content into the archive – content which the curators do not find with their different methods. We identify content both with classic/common? keyword searches and using a variety of link scraping tools / link scrapers.

Is the coronavirus related web collection of any value to anybody?

In accordance with the Danish personal data protection law, the public has no access to the archived web material. Only researchers affiliated with Danish research institutions can apply for access in connection with specific research projects. We have already received an application for one research project dealing with values in the Covid-19 communication. We hope that our collection will inspire more research projects.

The Croatian Web Archive – what’s new?

The Croatian Web Archive (Hrvatski arhiv weba, HAW), launched in 2004, is open access. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the National and University Library in Zagreb hosted the IIPC General Assembly and the Web Archiving Conference in June 2019. HAW has been the central point in Croatia for researching website development (.hr domain) and the HAW Team has also been organising training for librarians. One of HAW’s most recent projects was the development of the new portal.


By Karolina Holub, Library Adviser at the Croatian Digital Library Development Centre, Croatian Institute for Librarianship, Ingeborg Rudomino, Senior Librarian at the Croatian Web Archive, & Marta Matijević, Librarian at the Croatian Web Archive (National and University Library in Zagreb)

June 2019 – June 2020

It’s been more than a year since the National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) hosted the IIPC General Assembly and Web Archiving Conference, which we remember with nostalgia.

Last year was a very busy year for the Croatian Web Archive (HAW) and we would like to share some of the key projects that we have been working on.

New portal design

The highlight of the last period was the launch of the new HAW portal.

Croatian Web Archive (HAW)

It was a complex project that took two years – from the initial idea to the launch of the portal in February 2020. The portal was developed and is maintained by NSK website developers and the HAW team. It is developed in a customized WordPress theme. Since the new portal had to be integrated with the database of the archived content, that is maintained by our partner University of Zagreb University Computing Centre (SRCE), a lot of coding was required in order to connect the portal with the archive database to ensure that everything is working properly and smoothly.

Below you can see fractions of our previous portals from 2006 and from 2020:

HAW’s website from 2006 until 2011

HAW’s website from 2011 until 2020

So, what’s new?

The most important objective was to put search box in focus for all types of crawls and give users an easier way to find a resource. Because of the diverse ways of searching, our goal was to have a clear distinction between selective (that is indexed and can be searched by keywords, any word in title or URL, or use advanced search) and domain crawls (can only be searched by entering the full URL). A valuable addition to this version of the portal are the basic metadata elements that accompany each resource (which has a catalogue record) available in the portal.


Archived resource with the basic metadata elements (available also via library catalogue)

Additionally, the browsing of subject categories has been expanded with subject subcategories.

The visibility of the thematic collections has been improved by placing them on the title page. A new feature In Focus has also been added to highlight some of the most important or interesting events or anniversaries happening in the country, city or at the Library in the form of blog posts. This feature is available only in the Croatian version of the portal. The central part of the homepage features New in HAW and Gone from the web sections where user can browse all publications that are new or publications that are no longer available on the live web. The About HAW page features a timeline marking all the important dates related to history of HAW.

Some parts of the new portal have largely remained the same with only slight improvements to make them more user-friendly and up to date. More information about Selection criteria, National .hr domain crawls, Statistics, Bibliography, FAQ etc. can be found in the footer.

The portal is also available in English.

New thematic collections

During this one-year period, we have been working on six thematic collections. Some of them are already available and others are still ongoing:

Elections for the President of the Republic of Croatia 2019-2020

At the end of 2019, Presidential Elections were held in Croatia. The thematic crawls was conducted in January and the content is publicly available as part of this thematic collection.

Rijeka – European Capital of Culture 2020

Croatian city of Rijeka is European Capital of Culture 2020. All contents related to this event, during this challenging time, will be harvested. We are still collecting the content.

Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Croatia has chaired the Council of the European Union from January to June 2020. We are finishing this thematic collection and it will soon be publicly available on the HAW’s portal.

COVID-19

Our largest thematic collection so far is definitely COVID-19, which is still ongoing. We have included the public in collecting the content inviting nominations related to the coronavirus. In this thematic collection, we follow the events that begin with the onset of coronavirus in the Republic of Croatia and the world, featured on the Croatian portals, blogs, articles – from the outbreak of coronavirus, through general lockdown to the gradual normalization in which we are now.

Archived website (19.03.2020)

2020 Zagreb earthquake

On March 22, just a few days after the start of coronavirus lockdown in Croatia, Zagreb was hit by the biggest earthquake in 140 years, causing numerous injuries and extensive damage. Croatian Web Archive immediately started collecting content about this disaster. This thematic collection is publicly available on the HAW’s portal.

Archived website (15.04.2020) (photo by HINA; Damir Senčar)

2020 Parliamentary Elections

When the spread of the coronavirus was believed to be under control, Croatia held the Parliamentary Elections on July 5. The content for this collection will be collected until the constitution of the new Croatian Parliament.

In May of this year, we started cataloguing thematic collections at the collection level. We have also contributed the Croatian content to the IIPC Coronavirus (Covid-19) Collection.

Annual .hr crawl

In December 2019 we have conducted the 9th annual domain crawl and collected 119 million resources amounting to 9.3 TB.

HAW also started the installation and configuration of tools for indexing and enabling full-text search for domain and thematic crawls: Webarchive-Discovery for parsing and indexing WARC files, Apache SORL for indexing and searching text content and SHINE web interface for index search and analysis. We are still in the testing phase and only a part of existing crawled content is indexed.

Testing Web Curator Tool for new collaborative processes – Local Web Crowd crawls

A new development phase is the collaboration with public libraries in crawling their local history collections for which we are testing the Web Curator Tool. We expect the first results are by the end of November this year.

What’s next?

In the next months, we will be working on enabling more advanced use of HAW’s content to better suit the researchers, starting with the creation of the data sets from HAW collections. We will also prepare guidelines for using archived content on HAW’s portal. In addition, we are planning to update our training material according to the new IIPC training material. In the meantime, we invite you to explore our new portal.

Documenting COVID-19 and the Great Confinement in Canada

By Sylvain Bélanger, Director General, Transition Team, Library and Archives Canada and Treasurer, International Internet Preservation Consortium

It seemed like it happened overnight, suddenly we were told to work from home and limit our physical interactions with people outside our household until further notice. The information was changing and evolving very rapidly and as we started seeing the rise in COVID-19 related cases globally, the anxiety among colleagues and employees was rising as well. Business rapidly ground to an almost complete halt and only essential services would continue to operate, with strict controls and restrictions.

Spanish Flu and the Great Confinement of 2020

Even during these early days, in these times of uncertainty, a group of individuals saw a parallel between the current situation and the period of the Spanish Flu a century earlier. Thinking ahead to fifty years from now this group was asking the question – how will future generations know about this period of time, the Great Confinement of 2020 as they may call it, or the time of great creativity, or perhaps the time the Internet became our lifeline? Turning the clock back one hundred years to the period of the Spanish Flu has given us hints. Let’s not forget that the tragedy of the early 1900s was documented through newspapers, diaries, photographs, and publications detailing the fight and aftermaths of the Spanish Flu.

In 2020, where social media and websites are key means citizens used to document and get informed, how do we capture such ephemeral product?  Does any country have the answer? Isn’t that the question we often ask ourselves?

The importance of web archiving

Screenshot from the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

This period has given all of us an opportunity to educate news publishers, citizens, and government decisions makers about the work done by web archiving teams across Canada and around the world. The efforts of the IIPC have been pushed to the forefront in this crisis, and have helped us demonstrate the importance of preserving web content for future generations.

In Canada the work entails a coordination of efforts with other governmental institutions as well as with university libraries and provincial/territorial archives to limit duplication of efforts. At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), to ensure a proper reflection of Canadian society, we have captured over 662,000 Tweets with hashtags such as #covidcanada, #covid19canada, #canadalockdown, #canadacovid19, as part of over 38 million digital assets collected for COVID-19 in 2020. Of that a little over 87% of the content is non-governmental, from media and non-media web resources selected for the COVID-19 collection. This includes 33 sites on Canadian news and media collected daily, to ensure we capture a robust sample of the published news on COVID-19. Added to that are non-media web resources that create an overall LAC seed list of over 900 resources. Total data collected to date is a little more than 3.09 TB at LAC alone.

Documenting the Canadian response

In addition to our web archiving program, LAC librarians have noticed an increase in books being published about the crisis. That has been measured through our ISBN team observing an increase in authors requesting ISBN numbers for books about various aspects of the pandemic. In addition, LAC will document the Government of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic through our Government Records Disposition Program.  In this way the government decision-making on COVID-19 and impact on Canadians will be acquired and preserved by LAC for present and future generations. Also, our Private Archives personnel are monitoring the activities, responses and reactions of individuals, communities, organizations and associations within their respective portfolios. LAC will endeavour to acquire documents about the pandemic when discussing possible acquisitions with current and potential donors and when evaluating offers. Descriptions in archival fonds will now highlight COVID 19 content where appropriate.

The efforts undertaken to date at LAC are meant to document the Canadian response. Are our efforts enough to help citizens 100 years from now to understand the times we were living, and how we responded to and tackled the challenges of COVID-19? Only time will tell whether this is enough, or we need to do any more work to truly document the historical times we live in.

Luxembourg Web Archive – Coronavirus Response

By Ben Els, Digital Curator, The National Library of Luxembourg

The National Library of Luxembourg has been harvesting the Luxembourg web under the digital legal deposit since 2016. In addition to the large-scale domain crawls, the Luxembourg Web Archive also operates targeted crawls, aimed at specific subjects or events. During the past weeks and months, the global pandemic of the Coronavirus, has put society before unprecedented challenges. While large parts of our professional and social lives had to move even further online, the need to capture and document the implications of this crisis on the Internet, has seen enormous support in all domains of society. While it is safe to admit that web archiving is still a relatively unknown concept to most people in Luxembourg (probably also in other countries), it is also safe to say, that we have never seen a better case to illustrate the necessity of web archiving and ask for support in this overwhelming challenge.

webarchive.lu

Media and communities

At the National Library, we started our Coronavirus collection on March 16th, while there were 81 known cases in Luxembourg. While we have been harvesting websites in several event crawls for the past 3 years, it was clear from the start that the amount of information to be captured would surpass any other subject by a great deal. Therefore, we decided to ask for support from the Luxembourg news media, by asking them to send us lists of related news articles from their websites. This appeal to editors quickly evolved into a call for participation to the general public, asking all communities, associations, and civil interest groups to share their responses and online information about the crisis. Addressing the news media in the first place, gave us great support in spreading the word about the collection. Part of our approach to building an event collection, is to follow the news and take in information about new developments and publications of different organisations and persons of interest. As the flow and high-paced rhythm of new public information and support was vital to many communities, we also had to try and keep up with new websites, support groups and solidarity platforms being launched every day. However, many of these initiatives are not covered equally in the news or social media, a situation which is even more complicated through Luxembourg’s multilingual makeup. We learned about the challenges from the government and administrations, to convey important and urgent information in 4 or 5 languages at a time: Luxembourgish, French, German, English and Portuguese. The same goes for news and social media, and as a result, for the Luxembourg Web Archive. Therefore, we were grateful to receive contributions from organisations, which we would not have thought of including ourselves, and who were not talked about as much in the news.

© The Luxembourg Government

Effort and resources

While the need and support for web archiving exploded during March and April, it was also clear, that the standard resources allocated to the yearly operations of the web archive would not suffice in responding to the challenge in front of us. The National Library was able to increase our efforts, by securing additional funding, which allowed us to launch an impromptu domain crawl and to expand the data budget on Archive-It crawls. We are all aware of the uphill battle in communicating the benefits of archiving the web. There is a feeling that, while people generally agree on the necessity of preserving websites, in most cases there is little sense of urgency or immediate requirement – since after all, most everyday changes are perceived as corrections of mistakes, or improvements on previous versions. In my opinion, the case of Coronavirus related websites, made the idea of web archiving as a service and obligation to society much clearer and easier to convey.

© Ministry of Health

Private and public

The Web offers many spaces and facets for personal expression and communication. While social media have played a crucial part in helping people to deal with the crisis, web archives face some of their biggest challenges in harvesting and preserving social media. Alongside the technical difficulties and enormous related costs, there is the question of ethics in collecting content which is not 100% private, but also not 100% public. For instance, in Luxembourg, many support groups launched on Facebook, where people could ask their questions about the current situation and new developments in terms of what is

allowed, find help and comfort to their uncertainties. There are several active groups in every language, even some dedicated to districts of the city, with neighbours looking after each other. While it is important to try to capture all facets of an event (especially if this information is unique to the Internet) I am uncertain, whether it is ethical to capture the questions, comments and conversations of people in vulnerable situations. Even though there are sometimes thousands of members per group and pretty much everyone can join, they are not fully open to the public.

Collecting and sharing

covidmemory.lu

Besides the large-scale crawls and Archive-It collection, we also contributed part of our seed list to the IIPC’s collaborative Novel Coronavirus collection, led by the Content Development Working Group. Of course, the National Library did not limit its response to archiving websites. With our call for participation, we also received a variety of physical and digital documents: mainly from municipalities and public administrations who submitted numerous documents, which were issued to the public in relation the reorganisation of public services and the temporary restrictions on social life.

We also received some unexpected contributions, in the form of poems, essays and short diary entries written during confinement, describing and reflecting upon the current situation from a very personal angle. Likewise, a researcher shared his private bibliometric analysis of scientific literature about the Coronavirus. Furthermore, the University of Luxembourg’s Centre for Contemporary and Digital History has launched the sharing platform covidmemory.lu, enabling ordinary people living or working in Luxembourg to share their photos, videos, stories and interviews related to COVID-19.

Web Archiving Week 2021

Since the 2021 edition of the IIPC Web Archiving Conference will be part of the Web Archiving Week, in  partnership with the University of Luxembourg and the RESAW network, I am not going to spoil too much about the program by saying that we will continue exploring these shared efforts and responses during the week of June 14th – 18th 2021. We are looking forward to welcoming you all to Luxembourg!

Covid-19 Collecting at the National Library of New Zealand

By Gillian Lee, Coordinator, Web Archives at the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand

The National Library of New Zealand reflects on their rapid response collecting of Covid-19 related websites since February 2020.

Collecting in response to the pandemic

Web Archivists at the National Library of New Zealand are used to collecting websites relating to major events, but the Covid-19 pandemic has had such a global impact, it’s affected every member of society. It has been heart breaking to see the tragic loss of life and economic hardships that people are facing world-wide. The effects of this pandemic will be with us for a long time.

Collecting content relating to these events always produces mixed emotions as a web archivist. There’s the tension between collecting content before it disappears, and in that regard, we put on our hard hats and get on with it. At the same time however, these events are raw and personal to each one of us and the websites we’ve collected reflect that.

IIPC Collaborative Collection

When the IIPC put out a call to contribute to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak Collaborative Collection, we got involved. Initially New Zealand sources were commenting on what was happening internationally, so URLs identified were mainly news stories, until our first reported case of Coronavirus occurred in February and then we started to see New Zealand websites created in response to Covid-19 here. We continued to contribute seed URLs to the IIPC collection, but our focus necessarily switched to the selective harvesting we undertake for the National Library’s collections.

Lockdown

The New Zealand government instituted a 4 level alert system on March 21 and we quickly moved to level 4 lockdown on March 24. The lockdown lasted a month, before gradually moving down to level 1 on June 8.

The rapidly changing alert levels were reflected in the constantly changing webpages online. It seemed that most websites we regularly harvest had content relating to Covid-19. Our selective web harvesting team focussed on identifying websites that had significant Covid-19 content or were created to cover Covid-19 events during our rapid response collecting phase. Even then it was difficult to capture all changes on a website as they responded to the different alert levels.

We were working from home during this time and connected to Web Curator Tool through our work computers. The harvesting was consistent, but our internet connections were not always stable, so we often got thrown out of the system! If we had technical issues with any particular website harvest, by the time we resolved it, the pages online had sometimes shifted to another alert level! We also used Web Recorder and Archive-It for some of our web harvests.

Due to the enormous amount of Covid-19 content being generated and because we are a very small team (along with the challenges of working from home), what we collected could really only be a very selective representation.

Unite against Covid-19 – Unite for the Recovery

Unite Against Covid-19 harvested 18 March 2020.

One prominent website captured during this time was the government website ‘Unite Against Covid-19’ which was the go-to place for anyone wanting to know what the current rules were. This website was updated constantly, sometimes several times a day.

When we entered alert level one the website changed to “Unite for the Recovery.” We expect to be collecting this site for some time. While we have completed our rapid response phase we will be continuing to collect Covid-19 related material as part of our regular harvesting.

Unite for the Recovery harvested 9 June 2020.

Economic Impact
Apart from official government websites, we captured websites that reflected the economic impact on our society, such as event cancellations and business closures. We documented how some businesses responded to the pandemic, by changing production lines from clothing to making face masks and from alcohol production to making hand sanitiser. New products like respirators and PPE (personal protective equipment) gear were also being produced. Tourism is a major industry in New Zealand and with border lockdowns still in place, advertising is now targeting New Zealanders. There is talk about extending this to a “Trans-Tasman” bubble to include Australia and possibly some Pacific Islands in the near future.

Social impact
As in many countries, community responses during lockdown provided both unique and shared experiences. New Zealanders were able to walk locally (with social distancing) so people put bears and other soft toys in the windows for kids (and adults) to count as they walked by. The daily televised 1pm Covid-19 updates from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield during lockdown was compulsive viewing and generated memorabilia such as T-shirts, bags and coasters. These were all reflected in the websites we collected. We also harvested personal blogs such as ‘lockdown diaries’.

Web archiving and beyond
During this rapid collecting phase, the web archivists focussed on collecting websites, and that’s reflected in this blog post. There was also a significant amount of content we wanted to collect from social media such as memes, digital posters and podcasts, New Zealand social commentary on Twitter and email from businesses and associations. This has required considerable effort from the Library’s Digital Collecting and Legal Deposit teams. You can find out more about this in an earlier National Library blog post by our Senior Digital Archivist Valerie Love. We are also working with our GLAM sector colleagues and donors to continue to build these collections.

The French coronavirus (COVID-19) web archive collection: focus on collaborative networks

BnF’s Covid-19 web archive collection has drawn considerable media attention in France, including coverage in Le Monde, 20 minutes and TV Channel France 3. The following blog post was first published in Web Corpora, BnF’s blog dedicated to web archives.


By Alexandre Faye, Digital Collection Manager, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)
English translation by Alexandre Faye and Karine Delvert

The current global coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) poses an unprecedented challenge for the web archiving activities. The impact on society is such that the ongoing collection requires several levels of coordination and cooperation at a national and international level.

Since its spreading out of China and its later development in Europe, coronavirus outbreak has become a pervasive theme on the web. This sanitary crisis is being experienced in real time by populations simultaneously confined and largely connected, with a sense of emergency as well as underlying questioning. Archived websites, blogs, and social media should make up a coherent, significant and representative collection. They will be primary sourcesfor future research, and they are already the trace and memory of the event.

#jenesuispasunvirus

At the end of January 2020, while the Wuhan megapolis is quarantined, the first hashtags #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus and #CORONAVIRUSENFRANCE appear on Twitter. They denounce and show the stigma experienced by the Asian community in France. The Movement against racism and for friendship between peoples (Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, MRAP) quickly published a page on its website entitled “a virus has no ethnic origin”. This is the first webpage related to coronavirus to have been selected, crawled and preserved under French legal deposit.

Group dynamics

The coronavirus collection is not conceived as a project, in the sense that it would be programmed, would have a precise calendar and would be limited to predetermined topics. It grows as a part of the both National and local news media and Ephemeral News Current Topics collections. The National and local news media collection brings together a hundred of national and local press websites, including the editorial content, such as headlines and related articles as well as Twitter accounts which are collected once a day. The News Current Topics collection, which requires both a technical and organizational approach, relies on the coordination of an internal network of digital curators from their relevant fields”. It facilitates dynamic and reactive identification of web content related to contemporary issues and important events. By documenting the evolution, spreading and overall impact of the pandemic in France, archiving policy embraces all facets of the public health crisis: medical, social, economic, political and more broadly scientific, cultural and moral aspects.

“A virus has no ethnic origin”. Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples (MRAP) website. Archive of February 21, 2020.

70 selected seed URLs were crawled in January and February, while the spread of the virus out of China seemed to be limited and under control. Since March 17, date of the French lockdown, 500 to 600 seed URLs per week are selected and assigned to a crawl frequency: several times a day for social networks, daily for national and local press sites, weekly for news sections dedicated to the coronavirus, monthly for articles and dedicated websites which are created ex nihilo. Thus the section of the economic review L’Usine nouvelle is crawled weekly, because it organizes a stream of articles. Less dynamic, the recommendation pages of the National Research and Security Institute (INRES), is assigned monthly frequency.

By mid-April 2020, more than 2,000 selections and settings were created. This reactivity is all the more necessary due to the fact that certain web pages selected in the first phase have already disappeared from the live web.

The regional dimension

The geographical approach is also at the core of the archiving dynamics. The web does not entirely do away with territorial dimensions, as shown by the research works led on this topic. One may even think that they were reinforced as France is hit by the sanitary crisis, as the crisis coincides with the campaign for the municipal elections.

The curators of partner institutions all over the French territory have spontaneously enriched the selections on the coronavirus sanitary crisis. They contributed by including local and regional contents into account. This network is a key element to the national cooperation framework. Initiated in 2004 by the BnF, it relies on a network of 26 regional libraries and archives services, which share this mission of print and web legal deposit by participating in collaborative nominations. Its contribution proved to be significant since over 50% of the nominated websites selected until 15th April refer to local/regional content.

Simplified access to teleconsultation. ARS Guyana. Archived, April 5, 2020.

As a corollary, the crawl devoted to local elections has not been suspended after the 1st poll (which took place on March 15th), although the second poll (due to take place the following weekend) had been postponed and the whole electoral process suspended due to the crisis. In particular, the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the mayors elected in the 1st poll and those of the candidates who are still in contention for the 2nd poll have continued to be collected. These archives, as statements of mayors and candidates on the web during the weeks that had preceded and followed the 1st poll of local elections, already appear to be a major source for both electoral history and coronavirus pandemic in France.

Historic abstention rate in the local elections in the Oise “cluster”. francetvinfo.fr. Capture of March 16, 2020.

International cooperation

At the international level, the BnF and also in this way the other French participating libraries contribute to the archiving project “Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak”. This initiative launched in February 2020 is supported by the IIPC Content Development Group (CDG) in association with the Internet Archive. It brings together about thirty libraries and institutions collaborating around the world on this web archive collection. At the end of May, more than 6,800 preserved websites representing 45 languages had been put online on Archive-it.org and indexed in full text.


The BnF has for many years been pursuing a policy of cooperation with the IIPC to promote preservation and use of web archives on an international scale. One of the research challenges is to facilitate comparisons of the different national webs, in particular for the global and transnational phenomena such as #MeToo and the current health crisis. A first contribution was sent at the end of February to the IIPC.  It consisted of an 80 seeds selection made during the first phase of the pandemic, just before Europe became the main active center in front of China. Some of these pages have already disappeared from the living web.

According to the IIPC’s new recommendations and considering the evolution of the pandemic in France, the next contribution to the IIPC should be a tight selection (almost 5% of the French collection) linked to high priority subtopics include: information about the spread of infection; regional or local containment efforts; medical and scientific aspects, social aspects; economic aspects; and political aspects. A third of those websites reports on medical domain. A second third provides information about French territories that are remote from Europe: French Guiana and West Indies, Reunion and Mayotte. The last part concerns citizen’s initiatives and debates during the lockdown.

For examples, the special INED’s website hosting gives information on local excess mortality, articles from Madinin’art, Montray Kreyol, Free Pawol were selected by a local curator and banlieues-sante.org is website of an NGO which acts against medical inequality and has created a YouTube channel explaining protection measures in 24 languages including sign language.

Dr François Ehlinger on EHPAD. Nicole Bertin’s Blog. Website capture from the Charente-Maritime region. Capture on April 3, 2020

What’s next?

Some of the websites nominated by the BnF and its partners tend to constitute a collective memory of the event. Until mid-April, the share of social networks represented 40% of the nominations, with a slight predominance of Twitter over Facebook. Although a large share is devoted to official accounts – namely, of institutions or associations (@AssembleeNat, @restosducoeur, @banlieuesante) or to accounts created ex nihilo (@CovidRennes, @CoronaVictimes, @InitiativeCovid), hashtags prevail in the set of selections.

The aim is to archive a representative part of individual and collective expressions by capturing tweets around the most significant hashtags: multiple variations of the terms “coronavirus” and “confinement” (#coronavacances, #ConfinementJour29), criticism of the way the crisis has been managed (#OuSontLesMasques, #OnOublieraPas), instruction dissemination and expressions of sympathy show a unique and characteristic mobilisation of citizens while following the pace of the news (#chloroquine, #Luxfer).

Daniel Bourrion, “The virus journals” on face-ecran.fr. Archived April 3, 2020.

Archives relating to the coronavirus, as they account for the outcomes of the sanitary crisis and of the lockdown in various domains, end up in overlapping the set of themes to which the BnF and its partners pay a particular attention or for which focused crawls have already been conducted or will be led. For instance, digital literature or confinement diaries, relationships between the body and public health policies, epidemiology and artificial intelligence, family life in confinement and feminism, can be mentioned.

“Next” isn’t just a matter of a unique form of promoting this special archive collection, which remains a work-in-progress. It is neither a delimited project nor an already closed. It is documentation for many kinds of research projects and also heritage for all of us.

Guide for confined parents. The French Secretariat for Equality (Le Secrétariat d’Etat chargé de l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et de la lutte contre les discriminations). Capture of April 10.

COVID-19: Collecting so that we don’t forget

by Martine Renaud, Librarian, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec [1]

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news for months because of its sheer scale and its impact on our economy and social life as well as our health. How will it be remembered in a few years? The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919 is sometimes described as the forgotten pandemic[2]. This time, how can we make sure nothing is forgotten? Preserving the memory of this turbulent and exceptional time is crucially important for tomorrow’s researchers.

Capturing the Web

The Web and social media are playing a key role in the pandemic. They enable the instant spread of information (as well as fake news), provide a space for exchange and communication in a context of social distancing. BAnQ has been collecting Québec websites on a selective basis since 2009. The result of this harvesting is largely available on the BAnQ portal. Sites for which BAnQ has not gotten permission are preserved, but not made available. They can be accessed for research purposes.

Collaborative Collection

In February 2020, the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) called on its members, including BAnQ, to create a collaborative collection of websites dealing with the emerging pandemic.

BAnQ’s contribution to this collection formed the basis of the Québec collection, which we decided to create once the scale of the crisis became apparent. BAnQ  had already created several collections on special events, for example the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal, the collection on the pandemic is part of this corpus around exceptional events.

The Québec collection includes Québec government websites, and sections of websites, dealing with the pandemic. It also includes the websites of public health authorities (Directions de la santé publique), Québec’s National Public Health Institute (INSPQ), as well as the CISS and CIUSS (Integrated Health and Social Services Centres). Web pages about the pandemic from a number of cities and towns are included, as well as universities, CEGEPs (senior high schools), and school boards. Websites of companies that are particularly affected by the pandemic, such as financial institutions and supermarket chains, are also included.

Articles dealing with COVID-19 from Québec-wide and regional papers are collected, as well as parts of the websites of professional orders and associations. Of course, sites that have emerged or been in the news since mid-March, such as Jebenevole.ca, are also harvested. At the time of writing, over 15,000 URL addresses have been collected, and new ones are added every week.

Capturing social media

As for social media, BAnQ collects the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of personalities and public bodies involved in front-line management of the crisis, such as Premier François Legault, Québec’s health ministry (Santé Québec), and the City of Montréal’s police department (Service de police de la Ville de Montréal). All over the world, memory institutions are working to preserve traces of the pandemic. Thanks to these efforts, it is our hope that nothing will be forgotten.

References:

[1] This article will appear in the June 2020 issue of À rayons ouverts – Chroniques de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, No. 106 (Spring/Summer 2020), p. 26.

 [2] Alfred W. Crosby, America’s Forgotten Pandemic – The Influenza of 1918, 2e édition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, https://books.google.ca/books?id=KYtAkAIHw24C&redir_esc=y&hl=en (consulté le 4 mai 2020).