Documenting the 2015 Paris attacks web archives (1/3) : An interview with the Archive-It team

This post is the first in a series of three interviews conducted by the ASAP project team, aimed at documenting the web archives of the 2015 Paris attacks and their making, through a dialogue with the web archiving professionals from the institutions that have created event based collections on the attacks: Archive-It, the BnF and the Ina.

The first interview documents Archive-It’s Charlie Hebdo collection. It was conducted through an email exchange (11-17 March, 2016), between Valérie Schafer and Marguerite Borelli, and Jefferson Bailey, Internet Archive’s Web Archiving Programs Director of the Archive-It, and Sylvie Rollason-Cass, web archivist in charge of the Charlie Hebdo attacks fund within the Archive-It team.

Archive-It is a subscription service offered by the pioneering web archiving institution Internet Archive. Launched in 2006, it allows its partner organizations to benefit from the Internet Archive’s infrastructure, experience and know-how in terms of web archiving.

site Archive-It Charlie Hebdo collection

site Archive-It
Charlie Hebdo collection

Q1: You have worked with many IIPC members to collect the Web in relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks: How was this partnership organized (was it a formal process or was it spontaneous?)? Did the same type of partnership and collection take place for the November attacks?

Jefferson Bailey & Sylvie Rollason-Cass : As an IIPC member we have collaborated with other member organizations on event based collections in the past. We at the Internet Archive began crawling some news and social media sites related to the event shortly after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices. We heard from BnF that they were beginning to nominate URLs related to the attack to archive as well and offered to collaborate with them and other IIPC organizations on building one collection. 
A similar, but smaller, effort was made to create a collection related to the November attacks. That collection to date has only received URL nominations from the BnF.

Q2: When did these emergency collections begin? (with which events? and which of them were the most important ?) How do you decide to launch a special collection? Who decides ?

JB & SRC: The first event based collection that Archive-It and the Internet Archive worked on was started in 2007 in collaboration with Virginia Tech* to document the April 16th, 2007 shooting that took place on their campus. Since then we have built over 15 event based collections with collaboration and URL nominations coming from subject matter experts, as well as via crowd sourcing.
We rely on a collaborative model that gets input from subject matter experts and/or has significant participation via crowd sourcing. This informs how event-based collections are planned and managed. Examples of this include the Nepal Earthquake collection, which is comprised of URLs nominated by Yale University, the Bodleian Library, and Columbia University, and the Boston Marathon collection, which relied heavily on crowd sourced URL nominations.

Q3: What are the goals and achievements of these collections and theirs limits?

JB & SRC: The goal of these collections is to establish an accessible archive of web content related to a specific event, capture at risk content during times of crisis, and provide open access to the archived content for research and general browsing. As mentioned, we’re a small team so one of the primary limits to creating these collections is personnel time and resources. The only limits is that we are constrained in building and managing spontaneous collections just by ourselves, so the collaborative model is essential to their success and sustainability.

Q4: Have you got an idea of the number of visites of the Charlie Hebdo archives after one year?

JB & SRC: Not off hand. It is a bit complicated to measure traffic at the collection level for an internally-managed account. So we don’t have stats handy. We are working towards getting collection-specific traffic, but aren’t there yet.

Q5: The Charlie Hebdo fund on Archive-It contains archives of Facebook and Twitter (see here for example). Considering that these archives –which hold a lot of personal data, are publicly available, what is their legal status?

JB & SRC: The Internet Archive’s mission is “Universal Access to All Knowledge” and to help preserve the artifacts that document our shared culture and heritage in order to create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars. More and more of these artifacts now exist in digital form and thus our mission includes collecting web resources that are publicly available.
Details about our web archives and policies can be found on our website: and in Internet Archive’s Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and Copyright Policy, available here:

* Virginia Tech University operates the Crisis, Tragedy and Recovery Network, a fund regrouping event based web archives on sudden tragic events and crises, hosted in part by Archive-It.