Hurricane Sandy: Record, Remember, Rebuild

Originally posted on 2013-07-11 Accessed 02 June 2013

Reviewed by Alexandra Orchard, Service Employees International Archivist (SEIU), Wayne State University [PDF Full Text]

Since the 2012 Society of American Archivists annual meeting, Reviews Portal pieces have engaged with and used three notions from Jon Voss’ plenary speech to evaluate archival resources and tools. Highlighting these ideas in the reviews served to carry the themes initiated at the conference throughout the year, creating continuity and uniting a broad range of resources through a set of common evaluative factors. These notions are:

1. How does the resource connect and effectively tell the story between documents and records, their data, and the record creators?
2. How does the resource highlight the role of archivist as DJ? If successful in this role, the resource takes a variety of information and turns it into a mashup, presenting the often disparate information into a single, cohesive user experience.
3. Does the resource create its own archival content community through the use of nodes (data/documents/content) and links (relationships/connections)?

It is fitting that, nearly a year after Voss’ talk, the Reviews Portal features this piece on “Hurricane Sandy: Record, Remember, Rebuild,” (HSRRR) a resource facilitated in part by Voss’ company History Pin as well as SAA, Google, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, and the American Association of State and Local History. Like the previously reviewed resources, HSRRR may be evaluated against the three above notions; indeed it embodies them. However, given that one of its creators was the inspiration for these review criteria, this review will instead focus on HSRRR’s current features and functionality as well as its ongoing potential.

HSRRR functions as both an archiving and a community building tool. Users include institutions and individuals. Both use and creation are egalitarian: access to the material is open, and anyone with a Google account can contribute to the project. Because of this openness, the project speaks to a culture of community around the events of Hurricane Sandy. The act of adding content is straightforward with an intuitive interface which provides steps for the user to indicate when the content is from (before (the last 100 years), during, or after Sandy), the format (photos, video, audio), and finally “pinning” the content to a map, capturing its location.

Users can explore content in several ways. The homepage features a scrolling list of the most recent content uploads, akin to Facebook’s Ticker. Analogous to how content is uploaded to the site (before, during or after Sandy), users may also view content by first selecting a timeframe and then choosing the format for that content (map, gallery, comments, or slideshow view). Each of these views initially highlights a different aspect of content: geolocation (Map), multiple items (Gallery) captions (Comments), and individual items (Slideshow). Regardless of how a user initiates interaction with a piece of content, the item itself as well as the contributor-provided and user-added metadata is accessible, providing the user with both the material and its context. Metadata, including title, description, tags, licensing, date, and location, is added by users during the contribution process. Additionally, while viewing previously contributed content, users may add additional metadata and information via comments. Users also have the capability to share the content on a variety of social media sites (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and others), tag the item as a favorite, and report erroneous or inappropriate content.

The potential of HSRRR relies on its users to continually drive its growth through providing and linking content. While this is a strength, it also provides a significant challenge as much of the primary user base that HSRRR serves and seeks to engage is still rebuilding and recovering from Sandy’s impact. These potential users may view documentation as secondary to the difficulty of rebuilding. That said, documentation is often a natural part of the rebuilding process, and so long as HSRRR is able to effectively publicize itself and engage potential users, the community will likely thrive. However, at this point, many of the contributors still appear to be institutions and agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who posted this photo ( of destruction after Sandy. But, these institutional contributions establish a base level of useful content, the presence of which will further encourage individual participation and perhaps serve to connect prospective donors to collecting institutions.

HSRRR succeeds both as a community building and archival tool to preserve content concerning the places and people affected by hurricane Sandy. By providing a space where users, both individuals and relevant institutions contribute and link a variety of content formats together, HSRRR creates its own archival community that shares stories and create connections.

For more information on HSRRR:
Hurricane Sandy: Record, Remember, Rebuild –

Jon Voss’ Blog Post about HSRRR –
Additional Hurricane Sandy and Archives Related Content:

Virginia Tech: Crisis, Tragedy, and Recovery Network’s Hurricane Sandy Archive –

The Signal: Digital Preservation –



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