Contemporary history of Europe

Let’s talk about web archiving … three institutions, many possibilities

This presentation focused on three oral interviews I conducted during the COVID crisis, respectively with the BnL (Bibliothèque nationale du Luxembourg, Els, 2020) in Luxembourg and with INA (Institut national de l’audiovisuel, Schafer, 2020b) and BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gebeil et al., 2020) in France, to document their web archiving practices and choices during the pandemic.
Oral histories not only document the collections and often hidden practices of crawling, selecting, curating and preserving data. They also provide a lot of information on living collections, on the challenges at stake and on human participation in this process. It also enlightens values and governance of web archives and web archiving practices (Schafer and Winters, 2021). Moreover, documenting web archiving is necessary for the current and future work of researchers and may help them to better understand their datasets, the representativeness of collections, bias and limits as well as the strengths of these web archives.

Our presentation first compared the practices in the three institutions we selected as case studies for this presentation, in terms of perimeters, curation, stakeholders, targets - INA being a specific case as it focused more precisely on Twitter and retrieved data from the Twitter API, while the BnL and BnF targeted websites more widely (and some social networks but in a less systematic way). We also explained how these oral histories may help to better understand the shaping of web archives. We finally gave several concrete examples of the usefulness of this material for researchers who conduct research on web archives, and more specifically on the COVID crisis, in terms of transnational approaches, and silences and noises in web archives (Brügger, 2018), etc.

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