This is the final post in our series on the collaborative End-of-term and Election web archives. This post focuses on the Election 2012 Web archive, particularly on the challenges we are facing in building an engaged community of web site nominators.
The idea for the 2012 Election Web Archive grew out of conversations with the End of Term project partners (Internet Archive, California Digital Library, Library of Congress, the University of North Texas Libraries and the U.S. Government Printing Office) about Harvard’s potential participation in the project. Librarians at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS – Harvard’s graduate school of government), suggested that a logical focus for them would be the upcoming presidential election. In the past, presidential elections generated a lot of enthusiasm among faculty and students, who frequently requested both printed and online election-related resources from the library. They hoped to harness some of this enthusiasm.
Since the Library of Congress has been collecting in this area for many years, the group decided to collaboratively collect web sites about the 2012 election as a sister collection to the 2012-2013 End-of-term collection. The partners decided to distribute selection responsibilities so that they could each focus on areas of particular interest at their institution. Curators from the Library of Congress would focus on official campaign sites produced by presidential, congressional and gubernatorial candidates, using their in-house tools for tracking nominations.
The Harvard curators would focus on web sites produced by non-profit organizations, academic institutions, fact-checking organizations and some individuals, including blogs, tweets and YouTube videos, using the nomination tool created by UNT for the 2008-2009 project. Examples of these web sites include http://factcheck.org, http://dailykos.com and http://campaignmoney.com/. Initial selections were made by library staff and plans were made to engage faculty, students and staff in relevant academic areas such as Democracy, Politics and Institutions and from HKS Research Centers such as the Institute of Politics; the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; the Center for Publish Leadership and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
Nomination of web sites began in December 2011 and will continue on an ongoing basis until the election. The Internet Archive began crawling these sites in January 2012, and will continue crawling these sites on a weekly basis until sometime after the 2012 election. After each crawl, detailed reports are distributed to the entire group, highlighting any problematic web sites, for example sites that couldn’t be collected because of robot exclusion files. The campaign sites nominated by Library of Congress curators will be crawled separately as a part of the Library of Congress Web Archives with the ultimate goal of providing a shared interface for researchers to access all of the campaign and other election-related sites.
As soon as crawls were underway, HKS librarians focused on soliciting help in nominating web sites to include in the collection. Previous efforts to engage the community of faculty and students included direct emails, in-person conversations, an advertisement in the student newspaper, and posts to the HKS LinkedIn page, but produced few nominations. The campaign also included contacting staff and librarians at other public policy schools. So far this hasn’t resulted in additional nominations. At the start of the semester in September, HKS librarians will publicize the project on the Journalist’s Resource web site, and possibly on The Monkey Cage web site. In addition, the group made the decision to publish the URL to the nomination tool (which does not require an account to use) directly in public articles about the project. As was learned in the 2008-2009 project, it was more important overall to make the tool as accessible as possible than to lock it down because of the risk of misuse. In the event that any inappropriate URLs are submitted, they can be removed from the list of sites to crawl.
Although to date it has been challenging to engage a broad group of nominators for this project, we remain optimistic that as we move closer to the election it will be easier to spark interest and participation in the project.
How can you help? If you would like to nominate a web site for the Election 2012 Web Archive, visit the nomination tool and start entering URLs. If you have suggestions for us or any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, here on this blog, or on Twitter @eotarchive.
Andrea Goethals and Wendy Marcus Gogel
Harvard Kennedy School Library