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Ask the Recommending Officer: Indian General Elections 2009 Web Archive

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The following is a guest post by Abbie Grotke, Web Archiving Team Lead.

Here is the third in my series of “Ask the Recommending Officer” posts. This time I feature a conversation with Atish Chatterjee about the Indian General Elections 2009 Web Archive.

Who are you and what is your job at the Library of Congress?

My name is Atish Chatterjee. I work with the Library of Congress Overseas Operations Division in the New Delhi Office in India, and am the head of its Acquisitions Section. I have worked for LC for over 23 years.

Our Country Our Voice | Avinash Narula Political Blog India
Our Country Our Voice | Avinash Narula Political Blog India:

The Library’s New Delhi Office is one of six overseas offices with locations in Jakarta, New Delhi, Islamabad, Cairo, Nairobi and Rio de Janeiro. Each office acquires a wide variety of publications from the country in which it is located, as well as from other countries in the assigned region.  Together, LC’s overseas offices cover acquisitions from 58 Asian, African, Middle Eastern and South American countries.

The New Delhi office was established in 1962 and is the largest and the oldest of the six regional offices. We employ acquisitions librarians, catalogers and preservation specialists native to the region who acquire and process publications issued in approximately 24 major vernacular languages and an additional 15 dialects and tribal languages. To cover the region well, the New Delhi office maintains small sub offices in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Tell us about the Indian General Elections 2009 Web Archive.

This collection is a selected set of 57 websites that document the 2009 India General Elections. As the world’s most populous democratic nation with the largest number of eligible voters, India’s political landscape encompasses an electorate comprised of 44 major linguistic groups and over 61 officially recognized political parties at the national and state level.

To constitute the 15th Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament), general elections in India were held in five pre-established phases over a period of one month between April 16 and May 13, 2009. Early election indicators pointed to an erosion of the power of national political parties and a strengthening of regional political parties.  Ultimately, the final results of the election showed national political parties receiving the majority of votes and corresponding seats in Parliament.

Why did you want to build this archive?

We wanted to supplement LC’s India newspaper and print coverage of this election with campaign and elections materials available only from Internet sources.  Several of the websites included in this collection are maintained by political and religious organizations that rarely publish in print format.  To the best of my knowledge, the Library of Congress is the only organization that attempted to capture and preserve this election’s web-based 2009 campaign materials.

What types of websites were preserved?

The websites in this collection are hosted by non-commercial organizations.  They include websites of election candidates, educational and research organizations, state and national political parties, government bodies and religious organizations.  They are all India based websites; the vast majority are in English.  Due to the linguistic and subject expertise needed to identify and evaluate websites for inclusion in the collection, 10 staff members contributed URLs to this project.

Rashtriya Krantikari Samajwadi Party
Rashtriya Krantikari Samajwadi Party:

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced collecting born-digital content for the Library’s collections?

The biggest challenge proved to be locating individuals responsible for the websites that we wanted to archive.  We tried to contact these individuals not only to notify them of our interest in archiving content from their websites, but to also request permission to make the website’s harvested content available off premises via the Library’s website.  Where permissions were not granted, the archived site is only available to researchers at the Library of Congress in Washington and in our Overseas Operations offices.

How do you see researchers using an archive like this?

This collection pulls together in one place online election materials produced and electronically distributed by many of the key organizations shaping Indian national and state politics.  For the event covered, this collection provides a substantial amount of primary source material for scholars studying this event, the political climate at the time of the 2009 election, the relationships between different political, cultural and educational groups and the manner in which Indian politicians and political groups are now using the internet to further their political campaigns and agendas.

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