Crawling Through Latin America

A 2006 web capture from the Colombian Ministry of Defense.

When libraries began to experiment with ways to migrate and adapt their traditional structures and skills to a technologic age, they came up with some novel approaches to information collection and preservation that are in a process of constant evolution. One such experiment begun in 2005 is still active and paying dividends today.

The Latin American Government Documents Archive (LAGDA) has been collecting, preserving and providing access to ministerial and presidential documents from 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries. In a process of crawling – the automatic downloading of webpages based on given criteria – the project has captured documents and information that could (and likely would) be lost over time due to neglect, changes in technology, changes in leadership or, in some cases, a willful desire to expunge the historical record.

The project is an extension of a decades-long effort by the Benson Latin American Collection to collect government print reports from Latin American countries, some of which date to the late 19th Century, and complements the work of the Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

Kent Norsworthy is a data curator and communications specialist splitting time between the Benson and the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies who has been one of the primary drivers of the LAGDA project. He recently provided an interview on his work to “The Signal,” the Library of Congress’s blog on digital preservation, which you can read here.

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