Keeping Blogs Alive

November 29th 2018

The Expatriate Archive Centre (EAC) is an independent non-profit foundation. We aim to collect and preserve expatriate life stories, regardless of a person’s country of origin or where they moved to. Our focus is primarily on unique personal writings. Though much of our collection is tangible — including photographs, letters, diaries and other documents — in recent years we have begun to collect born-digital material.

Our lives are increasingly lived online. This is especially true for expatriates, who use social media and other Internet-based applications to more easily keep in touch with their home bases, friends abroad, and other communities. In 2016 we decided to start a blog archiving project. We see blogs as a type of diary. The project focus is on blogs written by any people who have lived abroad. Since these writings are digital, they are also vulnerable. Often blogs started by expats are meant to transmit stories and other information from foreign homes. However, there are many reasons why a blog may cease to exist: the blogger may stop writing while still abroad or when they move to another location, or a blog may evolve into a different purpose once the creator repatriates, among other possibilities. Rarely is there discussion about what happens to this particular type of blogs once they are created or finished. We want to preserve these blogs and their contents because we recognise their cultural and historical value. Adding a blog archive to our collection will enrich the research opportunities for students and other academics who choose the EAC as a place of study.

What we did not realise when embarking on this new archival project was how grand it would be. Two years after we began work on it, the project is still evolving. For an undertaking like this we want to do it right the first time, and that means being diligent in our research before making decisions.  There have been multiple elements that we had to consider and address: which software to use, what the selection criteria are, how to ensure the quality of selected blogs, how to make it compatible with our existing archival software, what type of agreement to sign with blog creators, etc. The latest changes in the EU’s privacy policy also added a layer to our project. We are proud to announce that, despite multiple challenges, our project continues and we have created a great database with potential blogs to archive. Once we finalise all the legal aspects, the actual archiving can begin! We are working hard on making sure that in 2019 we can offer the project’s first blogs to researchers.

The Digital Preservation Coalition includes blogs and blog comments (among the more-broad Material Posted to Current Web-based Social Media Platforms or Equivalent) in the Vulnerable category of its Bit List. As noted there, social interaction services with “asymmetrical terms and conditions” often do not consider data preservation when building their frameworks. Of course, we have parameters and cannot preserve all blogs or even all the blogs that may fall within our parameters for this particular project. The EAC encourages bloggers to archive their work, regardless of if they (eventually) participate in our project. The U.S. Library of Congress has a step-by-step guide to help those interested in preserving their online social history, which can be found at this URL: http://digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/websites.html.

Getting our blog archiving project off the shelf and online is a priority for the EAC in 2019. Do you have experience implementing or participating in a similar project? Would you like to contribute your own blog to our project? We would love to hear from you! Send us an email at pr@xpatarchive.com.


Read this post and other posts about digital preservation on the Digital Preservation Coalition’s World Digital Preservation Day blog.


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