Gretchen Gueguen, a digital archivist in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, was out of the office in the days immediately following President Sullivan's resignation. But she noticed that something momentous was happening back at the University. "I started seeing articles in the national media about the resignation and I thought to myself, This is making a big impression," she says.
Back on Grounds, members of the library's Digital Curation Services were already working to collect materials related to the ongoing events to preserve, describe and archive them for future study. The Scholars' Lab created a website where anyone can upload photos, videos and online written material related to the controversy. "There aren't digital archivists in many places," Gueguen says. "UVA is really at the forefront."
Meanwhile, librarians from University Archives and Special Collections worked to collect as many physical objects as possible. They attended the rallies on the Lawn and talked to various attendees about the archive the library was creating. "Part of our job is to develop relationships with faculty and staff," says Edward Gaynor, head of collection development and description for Special Collections. Once rally members agreed to donate their items, Gaynor says he "literally took things out of people's hands and carried them back to the library." Today, his office is filled with hundreds of signs and photographs from the rallies waiting to be archived.
When Gueguen returned to Grounds on June 19, she began capturing various Twitter messages that contained the #UVA hashtag. Twitter keeps only the most recent 1,500 tweets for a given hashtag. The Twitter conversation about the University was so intense that Gueguen found she had to capture incoming tweets almost constantly.
In the end, Gueguen captured more than 80,000 tweets related to Sullivan's resignation and reinstatement, along with hundreds of online news articles, blog posts and videos. "The flowering proliferation of content wouldn't have happened 10 years ago," she says. Gueguen also notes that this is the first time she has collected something so current to archive. "In the past, we were collecting things like floppy disks," she says.
The online and print materials complement each other well. "Seeing the actual object is a different experience from looking at something on a screen," Gaynor says. For example, with a print newspaper, you can learn about an event's significance from how bold the print is and where the story is located on the page. But the online version of the article gives the viewer access to reader comments. "The two things overlap each other to make a comprehensive whole," says Gueguen.
In the fall, the media studies department will offer a course, "Documenting UVA's Future: Oral History of the Ouster and Reinstatement," for which students will interview members of the University community who were involved with the June events. The results will then be added to the library's archive. Also this fall, Special Collections plans to run an exhibit of the materials collected over the weeks in June. "We want to do this for the students who weren't around to witness the events," Gaynor says.