Curating culturally themed collections online: The Russia in the UK Collection, UK Web Archive
By Hannah Connell, Collaborative PhD Student, King’s College London; British Library
I spoke about my position as a curator for the Russia in the UK curated collection as part of the recent Engaging with Web Archives conference (EWA), which was held online from the 21st-22nd of September 2020. This conference reflected the breadth of the web archiving community, bringing together speakers from researchers to librarians, as well as curators and web archiving teams from many different countries.
As always, it was inspiring to participate in such a welcoming event. Even online, the conference retained the collaborative atmosphere which has marked my experience of research in web archiving, allowing new researchers to interact with more experienced practitioners and encouraging questions and conversations between researchers, users and archivists.
The researcher-curated collection, Russia in the UK, is part of the UK Web Archive (UKWA). I was particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to present this curated collection, a resource on the Russian-speaking community in the UK, which was first started in November 2017. Such collections play an important role in making the wide range of material preserved in the UKWA more visible to researchers.
Curators are important to the preservation work of the UKWA. Curated collections are collected manually by curators and researchers with specialist knowledge in their field. The role of a curator in creating a UKWA collection involves identifying relevant websites to be included in a collection, and recording the metadata for these websites, including the translation and transliteration of titles and descriptions in other languages.
This collection is valuable both as a resource for further research, and as a means of questioning research practices. It is not possible to capture everything on the web, and collection curators ensure that a representative sample of websites for each thematic collection are selected. The practice of creating and maintaining a collection such as the Russia in the UK ultimately influences the shape of the collection and the online representation of the diasporic community it will come to reflect. As such, it is important for researchers and users to understand the decisions taken by curators in selecting and capturing websites.
My paper for EWA focused on the creation of a curation guide for curators of new curated collections. This draws on the ongoing process of curating the Russia in the UK collection, documenting both the provenance of this special collection and reflecting on this process as a model for future collections.
In documenting the creation of this collection, I hope to enable future researchers to explore and contribute to this record of the online activity of the Russian diaspora in the UK, and to question and develop the curatorial and research practices behind the curation of collections.
You can watch Hannah Connell’s presentation on the EWA YouTube channel.