The University of Westminster’s Records and Archives service collects, preserves and provides access to records created by staff and students of the University and its predecessors. It acts as the central point of information about the university’s history, managing their records in accordance with legislative requirements and best practice for students, staff and the wider community.
Since May 2016, University Records and Archives has implemented a Digital Preservation Strategy to enable the University to successfully manage its digital records including websites and social media platforms. The University’s rationale for ensuring the proactive management of digital records is to support reputational protection and regulatory and legal compliance; to provide access to users and to support online learning; and for the continuation of institutional memory.
The University has developed procedures, in line with best practice and standards in archives and records management, that follow the Open Archival Information System reference model; and continues to work across the University to advise best practice in the creation and management of digital records.
Like most university archives, the University of Westminster was feeling the exponential pressures of digital transformation against a backdrop of a general lack of physical resource and limited budget.
This is in the context of the last 20 years over which a mindblowing amount of digital content has been created - all of which needs to be captured and stored before it is lost, and made accessible in an array of formats for future access and yet to be discovered uses.
Tasked with the remit of safeguarding this information of cultural and historical importance, and meeting regulatory requirements such as the UK Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation and REF (Research Excellence Framework), there is increasing demand on universities to digitally archive web and social media content retrospectively.
The University was looking to evolve their digital archiving capabilities for high fidelity capture and replay of web and social media content - with MirrorWeb working to develop a solution that combats current barriers for archivists in higher education and delivers the basis for a ‘whitepaper’ for further community exploration.
MirrorWeb worked with partners Arkivum, current providers of digital preservation services to the University of Westminster, to enhance their combined offers of user friendly, cloud-native web and social media archiving and long-term data management solutions, to create a hybrid end-to-end digital archiving solution. This enabled the University to ‘get under the bonnet’ and see how this would benefit them.
The comprehensive and user friendly solution allows for large datasets to be crawled with high fidelity replay at minimal cost and automates the WARC files created via an API into Arkivum Perpetua software, offering a comprehensive solution with everything preserved in one location. This process takes place without any added cost or any need for physical intervention from the archive team at the University.
The University of Westminster are now able to capture and replay their main URL and social media accounts with minimal intervention, confident that the MirrorWeb solution will have an ISO-certified WARC accessible 24x7x365.
There is an array of open reports available on MIME types, crawl logs, new collaborations in development to curate Collections in line with Dublin Core, and the ability to add comment and interrogate the metadata transparently and instantly within the platform.
Dr Elaine Penn, Head of University Records & Archives at the University of Westminster, comments:
“The capability to archive and capture a single snapshot of a published website is a huge step forward for us. It has been a challenge historically as we have not had the resource or capabilities to do this in a standardised service provision. Once we’ve added the URL to the MirrorWeb system it instantly crawls and stores in the cloud without the need for intervention.
“We are also seeing the benefits of providing ‘best practice’ advice to our researchers. We had a particular issue capturing a specific site built on a Wix open source template, which, from working with MirrorWeb, we now know is virtually impossible to archive cost effectively. We are working on new guidance based on such learnings and continue to improve our digital curation provision to benefit researchers now and in the future.”