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COVID-19 and The Heritage Sector

The provincial response to COVID-19 has dramatically changed how the heritage sector normally operates. Our colleagues in the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) both local and national, have risen to the challenge of continuing to promote heritage and have developed some useful resources that we are pleased to share.

Below are some links that may be of interest to you or your organization as you navigate daily operations while in the office or at home. This is not an exhaustive list of every project and online resource currently available...just a highlight and somewhere for you to start! Note that articles and websites as summarized in the links below may be edited or updated at the discretion of the parent organization. 

University of British Columbia – Covid-19 Web Archiving Collections

Since early 2020 the UBC Library has embarked on a project to collect and preserve web content related to the unique local events and impacts surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. From the updates of Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry to records of COVID-related racism against Asian communities, this project will help to preserve the regional footprint of what will be a much-studied period in our history.

Useful Resources Developed During the Covid-19 Pandemic

BCMA: Reopening Guidelines for BC Museums, Galleries and Cultural Organizations

Sept 2020 - The BC Museums Association (BCMA) has compiled a guide, which has then been reviewed by the Government of British Columbia, to assist museums, galleries, culture centres, and heritage organizations in preparing their sites to be reopened to staff, volunteers, and the public. This is a living document that will be updated as our understanding of the COVID-19 virus, best practices, government guidelines, and guidance from medical professionals evolves. The guide can be found on the BCMA website.

Association of Canadian Archivists

ACA Statement on Reopening Archives

May 14, 2020 - As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, archives across Canada are now considering how to prepare for reopening after an extended period of closure. Archives and records professional are just beginning to understand how this closure has changed the nature of their work, temporarily and permanently, and what effect this pandemic will have on the profession as a whole. The ACA has released a statement on reopening archives. To read the full statement, visit:

Free online access to content from the last 4 years of Archivaria until June 30, 2020. All other previous issues are available in the Back Issues section of this site for your reading pleasure during these challenging times.

Suggestions for projects while your organization is closed, has a reduction in service hours, or staff is working from home:

Administrative work, such as: 

  • developing or revising policies, workflows, or manuals
  • continuing committee work via phone or teleconference
  • updating emergency planning protocols and continuity planning
  • cleaning up shared work drives by standardizing file names, organizing files, and deleting duplicates, etc.
  • researching new and emerging technologies applicable to collections management

Collections work, such as:

  • auditing collections for EAD- and/or RAD-compliant descriptions and outdated/oppressive language, importing/encoding legacy finding aids
  • cleaning descriptive data, such as finding aids, catalog records, and database descriptions (e.g., running spell check, populating fields, building templates)
  • exploring ways to share your collections in aggregators or linked data repositories, such as your provincial and territorial network, WorldCat, ArchiveGrid, SNAC 
  • adding information from your collections to Wikipedia and Wikidata, or uploading images to Wikimedia Commons, or transcribing documents in Wikisource
  • identifying collections for digitization and planning out each project
  • transcribing/translating digitized handwritten documents (e.g, diaries, correspondence, etc.)
  • creating libguides or research guides
  • reviewing digitized content for quality control
  • archiving web content using either the Wayback Machine or Webrecorder
  • maintaining and cleaning up website, checking for alt-text in images and doing accessibility audits

Reference and outreach work, such as:

  • answering reference requests as appropriate and possible
  • creating FAQs or “ready reference” answers 
  • engaging with users online through social media platforms
  • drafting, scheduling and writing blog posts
  • researching writing and recording podcasts or video tutorials

Staff development work, such as:

  • reaching out to hourly and student workers to ensure that they are able to submit timesheets electronically
  • arranging for regular phone calls/email check-ins with staff and volunteers
  • inviting fellow workers to collaborate on a project
  • researching and writing grants to support projects or scholarly research
  • learning a new skill, such as API, python, etc.
  • attending to annual performance evaluations or reviewing professional goals
  • completing applications for professional support and funding

International Council of Archives

This is the most recent statement developed by ICA and the International Conference of Information Commissioners, supported by ARMA InternationalCODATADigital Preservation CoalitionResearch Data Alliance and UNESCO Memory of the World.

The statement is built on three principles: Decisions must be documented, records and data should be secured and preserved in all sectors, and the security, preservation, and access to digital content should be facilitated during the shutdown.

We hope the archives, records, data and allied communities will support the statement and join us in underscoring the importance of the duty to document, now and for the future. 

BC Museums Association

COVID-19 Resources for Museums and Cultural Organizations

*Includes sub-sections on Funding, Human Resources, general resources for Not-for-Profit Organizations, Digital Resources, general Provincial and Federal resources, and Mental Health resources

Canadian Conservation Institute

NEW! Technical Note: Caring for Heritage Collections during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Version 3; August 10, 2021)

In July 2020, CCI published version 2 of “Caring for Heritage Collections During the COVID-19 Pandemic”, which compiled information and recommendations to help those who are responsible for ensuring that collections and heritage materials remain safe. Version 3 of this resource is now available online. This updated version provides results of research studies performed in the last year on the persistence of virus on surfaces, and includes updates on ventilation and air filtration in building spaces, as well as the impact of vaccination and variants in addressing reopening approaches.

Webinar Presentation: Caring for Heritage Collections during the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 21, 2020)

Cultural heritage institutions are coping with many challenges as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. While collections are not directly at risk, the pandemic complicates their care. In this webinar organized by the Ontario Museum Association, Irene Karsten shares information and recommendations compiled by the Canadian Conservation Institute to help those responsible for heritage collections. Questions about collections contamination, disinfection of museum spaces, and risks to collections during long-term shut down are addressed, based on the evolving collective knowledge of the public health and infectious disease research communities merged with what we know about keeping collections safe.

Northeast Document Conservation Center

Emergency Management 3.5: Disinfecting Books and Other Collections (updated Sept 2021) 


Resources for Documentary Heritage Professionals

Documentary Heritage News

Archival colleague David Rajotte provides a weekly summary of documentary heritage and archival news from around the world.

What to do during Covid-19: A List for Archivists. A list that provides a summary of online courses, videos, podcasts and other activities for archivists. 

Institute of Museum and Library Services

Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections

Join Dr. David Berendes and Dr. Catherine Rasberry, from the Centers for Disease Control, for an overview of the CDC’s guidance for community settings and environmental disinfection, and a discussion of how libraries, archives, and museums can help mitigate COVID-19 when working with paper-based, circulating, and other types of collections.   

International Federation of Library Associations

COVID-19 and the Global Library Field resource page

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The Archives Association of British Columbia acknowledges that it carries out its work on the land of Indigenous nations throughout British Columbia. We are grateful for the continuing relationships with Indigenous people in B.C. that develop through our work together.  

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