WU Libraries host February pilot event on federal digital data rescue

Digital content from federal departments, agencies, and commissions has increased dramatically in the past twenty years. But these programs can change their focus and even their existence as American agendas shift. Since 2008, the End of Term Web Archive has been working to preserve the content of federal websites, which may disappear or change after each election cycle. For more information see Preserving U.S. Government Websites and Data as the Obama Term Ends.

Data Rescue initiatives (sometimes called Data Refuge) build on the work of the End of Term Web Archive and the Internet Archive. Since there are some files, displays, and datasets that the Internet Archive harvesters cannot save, scholars and librarians all over the United States have collaborated to create a system that will preserve  important at-risk files for the future.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, WU Libraries hosted a pilot data-rescue event for library staff, joining a nationwide series of such events held by Harvard, MIT, UC-Davis, UT-Austin, Yale, Rice, and other institutions. Fourteen library staff explored the workflow set up by the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities, helping to curate and preserve selected federal digital data. One participant said, “It felt good to have some human agency in what’s happening in the world.”

An all-day event (tentatively set for March 31) for the entire Washington University community is in the planning stages, so watch for additional information! Update March 16: all-day event now set for April 14. Long-term commitments can be considered depending on faculty interest and feedback.

More information about Data Rescue Initiatives:

Ruth Lewis and Karen Olson were both participants in the Feb. 28 event.

About the author

Ruth is a librarian at Washington University for biology, math, history of science; she is also scholarly communications coordinator. Email: rlewis@wustl.edu Phone: 314-935-4819