Archiving during pandemic

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ (NCCA) National Committee on Archives and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) organized a webinar on archiving materials related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The event, “Archival Response from the Ground: Digital Repository Practices,” which was part of the webinar series “The Philippine Documentary Heritage: Archival Collection of the COVID-19 Pandemic” and streamed on 8 December 2020 on the NCCA’s Facebook page, tackled practices in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Two resource persons were invited to share their expertise and experiences on archiving during difficult times — Katie Howell, the archivist of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Nicola Bingham, the lead curator of the Web Archives of the British Museum.

Howell, in her talk “COVID-19 Rapid Response Collecting at UNC Charlotte,” shared that the practice of archiving during traumatic events started in 2013 when a shooting at their school killed two students. Following the tragedy, items related to the incident were collected and archived, which included memorials (memorial management); digital news stories, videos and social media posts (web and email archiving); interviews (oral histories); and digital photos, videos, remembrances and artistic expressions related to the event (digital submissions).

The latter was again utilized in March when a lockdown was implemented. Submissions from students and staff were collected, saved in an online form and shared through various online platforms.

Howell underscored that empathy is key in this practice as it can cause trauma and re-traumatization among those working on the project.

Nicola Bingham, the lead curator of the Web Archives of the British Museum.

Bingham, on the other hand, presented the United Kingdom’s “COVID-19 Web Archiving in the British Library.” She said this event has a “huge significance affecting societies in all areas” so it is important to react immediately and start collecting pertinent online materials.

The web archiving in the UK started in 2005.

She said that due to the pandemic, their rapid response collection technique was utilized. It was the same technique they used during the London bombings of 2005, zika virus outbreak from 2015 to 2016, and anti-racism protests this year. She also said her institution predominantly collects data from websites rather than social media, a targeted and selective approach.


UK-related online information was collected from many sources and persons from all walks of life, making the collection diverse and inclusive. The collection can be viewed from the British Library under the pandemic outbreak collection, which includes blogs, economic impact, and government and parliamentary actions on the current pandemic.

Bingham said these online documents are also part of the collaborative work of the International Internet Preservation Consortium Coronavirus Collection.

This webinar highlighted the importance of such undertaking for the safekeeping and preservation of anything related to the global health crisis.

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