There’s a major undertaking afoot, one that has brought together numerous agencies and volunteers in a race against the proverbial clock. Entire teams of librarians are working tirelessly to harvest information from government websites and store it in archives before it can be deleted following the inauguration of the new US President on January 20th. The information they’re harvesting is of a broad swathe of material, but does include some noticeable standouts like .gov pages on climate change, a hotly contested topic among politicians.
The project, called the End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016, might sound like an ominous resistance movement in the face of so much controversy surrounding the recent US elections, but the reality is far more mundane. This harvest project has been taking place since the end of George W. Bush’s term prior to the 2008 elections, and continues today.
Where the “resistance” comes in this time, though, is in the fear that certain websites and the information those sites contain will be taken down and lost forever. The project is therefore archiving the material on servers in an effort to ensure it can be retrieved if need be.
In a New York Times article on the project, Mark Phillips, library dean at the University of North Texas, was asked to explain the change in the project’s scope this time around:
“The ritual has taken on greater urgency this year, Mr. Phillips said, out of concern that certain pages may be more vulnerable than usual because they contain scientific data for which Mr. Trump and some of his allies have expressed hostility or contempt.”
According to the site where individuals can nominate web pages to be archived: “The Library of Congress, California Digital Library, University of North Texas Libraries, Internet Archive, George Washington University Libraries, Stanford University Libraries, and the U.S. Government Publishing Office have joined together for a collaborative project to preserve public United States Government web sites at the end of the current presidential administration ending January 20, 2017. This harvest is intended to document federal agencies’ presence on the World Wide Web during the transition of Presidential administrations and to enhance the existing collections of the partner institutions.”
Interestingly, social media feeds for key government figures will also be included in the archiving project, according to the Federal Depository Library Program. That means the opinion a particular candidate had about a critical issue a year or two ago may come back to haunt him or her in the next election cycle.
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