UBC Library Digital Initiatives creates COVID-19 web archives to document pandemic response in British Columbia

When the COVID-19 outbreak began in March 2020, UBC Library’s Digital Initiatives team started creating web archives to preserve materials relating to the COVID-19 pandemic response in British Columbia for future research. Librarians Larissa Ringham and Susan Paterson were able to move quickly to start capturing materials directly related to COVID-19. That first COVID-19 collection became a general information archive that includes updates from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, the BC provincial government and City of Vancouver websites, and media releases, articles and other publications from news media, health authorities and professional organizations.

They have since expanded their efforts to create several web archives documenting different facets of the COVID-19 pandemic, including UBC’s responseK-12 education in British Columbia, its impacts on the Downtown Eastside, and incidents of racism against the Asian communities in Canada. All together, these collections help preserve, with a focused local lens, the digital footprints of what will be a much-studied period in our history.

UBC Library captures content via Archive-IT, a web archiving service that stores the collected data in data centers that are independently owned and operated by the non-profit digital library Internet Archive. Quality assurance takes time, says Paterson, it’s not just about running crawlers, the automated software used to search, index and capture live web content.

Since web archiving requires a great deal of work to ensure that the sites are captured accurately, they try to work with UBC iSchool students whenever possible. Learn more about web archiving at Digital Initiatives and explore all UBC’s web archive collections.

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