University of Virginia’s Emergency Digital Collecting Toolkit Sees Increased Usage During Pandemic


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The Emergency Digital Collecting Toolkit, created by the University of Virginia and funded by the LYRASIS Catalyst Grant Program, is helping libraries, archives, museums and cultural institutions respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This toolkit provides resources and instructions on implementing digital collecting strategies before, during, and after rapidly-evolving social events and/or community crises.

The toolkit was created after the events of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017.

Over the last 18 months, staff from the project team at University of Virginia Library have been sharing the toolkit with other libraries, archives, museums and cultural institutions in order to help people and organizations prepare for events such as the COVID-19 crisis. Photographs, videos, and social media content are major components of crisis community collecting experiences, and UVA Library’s toolkit can help implement an effective emergency digital collecting and donations initiative. Aprille McKay, Lead Archivist for University Archives at the University of Michigan, says learning about the toolkit helped her “think about planning and strategy and automating the donation process.”

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, the University of Virginia Library and LYRASIS have seen a sharp increase in interest and inquiries about the Toolkit from organizations documenting their response to this national crisis.

Organizations can get started using the toolkit quickly and easily:

  • Read the basics of preparing for events requiring emergency digital collecting, and how to get your community collection up and running.
  • Discover the steps for setting up a website for collecting, using Omeka Classic and Omeka S.
  • See the toolkit section on Social Media Tools to learn about setting up and using the DocNow tool, Twarce, for collecting Twitter data.

One institution that has benefitted from the tool is the Vermont Historical Society. In early April, Librarian Paul Carnahan started looking around at COVID-19 documentation projects, finding the toolkit, which they quickly and easily implemented.

We have a staff of just two librarians and no technology or programming staff at the Vermont Historical Society, so we would not have been able to develop our own COVID-19 site without the resources that were made available to everyone on the internet by the UVA Libraries and LYRASIS. Jeremy Boggs, a staff member at UVA Library, was especially helpful in identifying particular sections of code that we needed to modify to fit our project.  We launched our site yesterday, April 13, exactly one month after our governor and the president declared states of emergency, so the time is ripe to collect materials on the most significant event of our time. Thank you to UVA Library and LYRASIS for making this COVID-19 pandemic archiving project possible!

Check out the Vermont Historical Society’s COVID-19 site here.

The toolkit is available here. LYRASIS offers webinars on the tool such as “Introduction to Emergency Digital Collecting” regularly; view our live class schedule. Visit our LYRASIS Learning website to request information about subscribing to LYRASIS Learning to access recordings of past sessions.

For more information on the Toolkit, contact Kara McClurken, Director of Preservation Services, University of Virginia Library, at  For more information on the LYRASIS Catalyst Fund program of grants for cultural heritage entrepreneurship, please contact Leigh Grinstead, Catalyst Fund Lead, LYRASIS, at

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