Legacy Archiving Reproductive Health Logo1. Overview

Working with key stakeholders, including activist organisations like Abortion Rights Campaign, Together for Yes, Terminations for Medical Reasons, Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, and many others, Archiving Reproductive Health is gathering and preserving a selection of digital objects and research data, including social media, that tells part of the story of this historic campaign.

A great deal of digital content was generated over the course of the referendum campaign (and before), but its long-term stability is as tenuous as is all web content. Websites and social media platforms containing links or copies of images, graphics and documents are vulnerable due to hosting costs, web or social media platforms going out of business, and proprietary software paywalls. Gathering and preserving this material in open-source format on a trusted digital repository such as DRI is essential to ensuring access into the future.

In March 2022, ARH published collections of design and publicity material from activist groups, as well as a sequence of stories from the popular Facebook page ‘In Her Shoes’, with more to follow. ‘In Her Shoes’ is a page where people anonymously shared stories of their experiences of being unable to access abortion in Ireland. Research data collections in the form of oral history interviews with medics, campaigners, and women’s rights activists were also published. These provide important records of the lived experiences of activists and people affected by issues of reproductive inequality in Ireland.

Legacy ABORTI1

The project will be continuously publishing material over the course of its operations in 2022 and 2023. Much of the material will already be familiar to the public from the 2018 referendum campaign, but the scheduled publication of administrative documents such as meeting agendas, strategic plans and annual reports will give the public richer and deeper context, as well as providing an invaluable resource for researchers.

2. Preservation methodology:

2(a) Facebook content preservation:

The software engineers working on ARH are researching methods for the open sharing of social media content, which is often tricky to navigate due to proprietary platforms.

The team used the Facebook API to export the stories from the ‘In Her Shoes’ page. The stories are preserved on DRI as text files with a link provided to the original story on the In Her Shoes Facebook page. Facebook/Meta’s current compliance policies were analysed and this was determined to be the best way to preserve this material in a way that is compliant with platform policies and enables FAIR data preservation.

2(b) Vocabulary development:

Developing a bespoke vocabulary for the ARH collections, and for future use in cataloguing sensitive data about reproductive health and related topics, is a key deliverable of the project. To that end, the stories in the ‘In Her Shoes’ collection have been reviewed and coded using sociological data analysis methods, and a codebook produced. This codebook was augmented by mapping the terms and matching them to terms used in the HASSETT (Humanities and Social Science Electronic Thesaurus), the leading British English thesaurus for the social sciences.

Legacy_Archiving_Reproductive_Health_Ethics_Protocol_Cover.jpg3. Research protocols:

ARH is making our research protocols publicly available. Publications to date include an Ethics Protocol, which ensures the quality and integrity of our research and archiving processes, and a Researcher Self-Care Protocol, which focuses on the potential of harm to the researcher when working with sensitive data on reproductive health.

4. Training:

Representatives from ARH stakeholder organisations joined the 2021 DRI Digital Preservation for Community Archives training course, to enable them to learn about ingesting material to DRI. This training covered collection creation, copyright and licensing, file formats, metadata and practical ingest. Additional training for stakeholders and members of the public is scheduled for Year 3 of the project (2023)

5. FAIR data:

A key aspect of the ARH project is the creation and sharing of FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable). The collections published to date, and those upcoming, are FAIR in the following ways:

  • Findable: The collections are catalogued using standardised subject terms where possible. The terms come from established vocabularies used in the archiving and library sectors. Our bespoke vocabulary will also aid findability of these and related collections across repositories.

  • Accessible: All the collections are open access where possible. All collection metadata is open access, using established vocabulary terms.

  • Interoperable: Objects are preserved in open formats (e.g. JPEG for images, PDF and RTF for text files, MP4 for videos)

  • Reusable: In our Deposit Agreements with the stakeholder organisations, we have committed to publishing this material under a Creative Commons open licence unless otherwise stated. This allows users to share and reuse this material freely.

6. Audiences

The creators of these materials are in most cases volunteers and members of the public themselves, rather than academics. Later in the project, our efforts will be centred around a Public Collection Day, allowing organisations involved in the project to share their work with the wider public, while also allowing members of the public to contribute in the form of oral histories and personal ephemera, to be digitised on the day.

7. Data sustainability

The DRI is a publicly funded, CoreTrustSeal awarded repository. We are committed to Open Access and FAIR data. The repository and its tools are built using freely available, open source software and our specifications are freely available online. All repository collections and publications are free to access and openly available, with the exception of certain social science datasets where access is restricted to researchers due to privacy concerns. All datasets are issued with Data Cite DOIs. Metadata is universally published with a CC-BY licence.

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