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UVa Creates Archive Documenting Sullivan’s Resignation

Image from Flickr via dbaron

The University of Virginia library staff is archiving materials related to the recent events that forced Teresa A. Sullivan to resign as president of the institution.

This is the first time the libraries have tried to preserve materials from a large-scale, continuing event, said Bradley Daigle, director of digital-curation services. The staff did not begin collecting materials on the subject until a rally on June 18. As of June 22, the team has archived nearly 20,000 tweets, 61 blog posts, over 200 media posts, and about 100 physical objects, such as signs from protests.

About a dozen full-time staff members are working on the project, Mr. Daigle said. The archivists are focusing on preserving third-party materials, such as newspaper articles, because internal communication records already belong to the university, covered under exisiting record-management policies.

“The biggest obstacle is collecting the ephemeral stuff, like Twitter accounts, spoof accounts that come up very quickly and get shut down very quickly,” Mr. Daigle said. “The other obstacle is the scale. There are so many different types and takes on what’s going on that it’s hard to capture them all, especially when you’re trying to take an objective approach.”

He is assembling a best-practices manual to spell out protocols on how to handle certain situations. For example, staff members want to collect reader comments posted to articles on newspaper Web sites, but it is difficult to decide when to archive the page while acknowledging that more comments may be posted later.

The collection will provide an objective snapshot of “a watershed moment, not only for the University of Virginia, but for higher education as well,” Mr. Daigle said.

The libraries’ IT staff is creating an upload form to allow members of the public to submit their own materials, such as photos taken from the rally. The form should be online by next week.

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