Web-Archiving the UCSF Response to COVID-19

We’re excited to announce the publication of the UCSF COVID-19 Response Web-Archive. UCSF has historically been a “first responder” to a wide variety of public health emergencies. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCSF archivists recognized that the evolving UCSF response to the situation would contain valuable information about this important, tragic, and devastating historical moment, and that documenting that response as it grew and changed would be a powerful historical record. And we were able to act quickly, because so much of the record is on the web.

Archives and Special Collections has been archiving websites for a long time — our oldest captures date back to 2007, which feels like another epoch in web-time (you can see all of our web-archives here: https://archive-it.org/organizations/986). To archive the web, we use specialized tools to take “captures” or “snapshots” of a certain web-page at a certain time, usually coming back to take a new capture at regular intervals. Because of this technique, web-archives are a valuable way to watch any given website evolve and change, and this documents something like a rapidly-evolving response to a global pandemic very well.

Image of website of AIDS Research Institute's COVID-19 Task Force showing their March 25, 2020 update on the pandemic in California and San Francisco.
The March 25, 2020 update of the AIDS Research Institute’s COVID-19 task force. Note that at this time there were only 76 confirmed COVID cases and no deaths.

In documenting the UCSF response to COVID-19 however, we had to work much more quickly and in much greater volume than we are used to. As you likely remember, during the height of the early days of the pandemic both the UCSF and the nationwide response was changing daily based on rapidly shifting information. Archives usually captures web-pages every 3 months or every 6 months, but upon embarking on this collection we realized that we needed to begin capturing certain websites every day. Additionally, UCSF has at any given time as many as 1000 different official websites (something with ucsf.edu at the base domain), so knowing which of these contained COVID information and should be captured was difficult. To remedy this problem, archivists set up GoogleAlerts to notify us anytime something was published to a ucsf.edu domain which mentioned certain key words identified as likely COVID-related.

And this was only the official UCSF websites. We also wanted to document outside coverage of UCSF activities, things that appeared on news websites, blogs, and occasionally social media (though the latter is persistently difficult to capture — download your Twitter archives people!). We were able to use GoogleAlerts in a similar way to help alert us to these sites, but even more importantly we benefited from the immense assistance of the amazing Anirvan Chatterjee, Director of Data Strategy at the Clinical & Translational Science Institute. Anirvan reached out to us early in the pandemic with a list of sites he had collected that contained documentation of UCSF’s role in the pandemic response, and his human-curated list was immensely helpful. The proliferation of digital information makes human curation and metadata creation increasingly difficult in archival repositories, and having someone like Anirvan who was able to devote the time to it (most digital archivist aren’t able to devote such time, if you can believe it!) really improved the collection.

This collection is also important because it can be both accessed by a human browsing and by a computer doing computational research. We plan to use these materials to expand our work in digital health humanities as well as collections as data as our newest colleague Kathryn Stine gets underway in her role coordinating these programs. Have a question about the COVID-19 web-archive collection? Want to use it in a computational project? Just love it? Get in touch!

It’s World Digital Preservation Day!

A banner image showing digital file icons of all types.

Did I read that right, you may be wondering? A whole day for digital preservation? What on earth could that be for? Can’t we just ctrl+s and we’re good? Can’t we put things in the cloud and they’ll be there forever?

Well, you did read that right: it’s a whole day for digital preservation and it could use a whole lot more. Digital preservation takes a ton of work, and far from being a passive strategy it is an active process that continues for as long as a collection needs to be preserved. And who are we kidding, if you read our blog you probably already had an idea that this was the case, and didn’t even have any of those fake questions I tried to pose at the beginning.

On the first Monday in November we celebrate the people and the labor that goes into preserving our digital cultural, biological, medical, and general scientific heritage so that it can be accessed by future generations. For generations, archives and archivists have, intentionally or not, relied upon “benign neglect” — one of my favorite archival terms — for the preservation of many of our most valuable collections. “Benign neglect” refers to the fact that under decent climatic circumstances, many physical media — printed photos, printed documents, books, etc. — can be forgotten by their owner in a closet for 20, 50, or even 100 years and still be relatively fine, ready for an archivist to come, clean things up, document the order, and accession them right on into our collections.

Unfortunately, things don’t work this way for our digital heritage. Think about something you created on a computer 20 years ago. If you even had your own computer at that point, does that computer still run? Is that file format you were using even open-able by a computer today? (Anyone here use LotusNotes?) You were probably saving things on floppy disks back then, do you know anyone with a computer that has a floppy drive? (We have one, let us know if you want to use it!)

In addition to all those questions above, there is the danger of “bit-rot”, or the corruption of individual pieces of the data that make up a file due to the physical aging of the storage media. Floppy disks and CDs are all various forms of plastic, and you may notice that anything plastic tends to get a little less lustrous after 20 years of sitting in your desk. There’s also the tricky interaction with corporate intellectual property that dictates much of how we live our digital lives. In many cases, that file format you used to save your work is actually owned by some company, and if they decide they don’t want to keep it around anymore, then you’re out of luck.

If it’s not clear already, digital preservation is a very active process that is essential if we are to be able to access our digital heritage going forward. When we bring in new “born-digital” collections in the Archives, we have to start by stabilizing the files — removing them from their carrier media, documenting brief technical metadata about them so that we can be sure they haven’t become corrupted while we move them around, and prepping them to be easily migrated to more readable file formats if necessary. But it doesn’t stop there. Once things have been stabilized, they still need to be maintained in a digital preservation repository for as long as we intend to preserve them. Digital preservation repositories do things like check for file corruption, backup files in multiple geographic locations, and migrate files that are at risk of becoming un-readable or out-of-date to new file formats which are open and widely readable. This is all work that will need to be done for the entire preservation lifetime of the files.

As you can see, this is all a lot of work! That’s why we’re excited to take today to celebrate the people, the systems, and labor that go into preserving our digital heritage, and making it accessible to all of us long into the future.

No More Silence: Data Documenting the lived experience of HIV/AIDS

Participants at the first workshop for the No More Silence project

For the last 3 years, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has been working to provide access our archival collections documenting the lived experience of the HIV/AIDS epidemic “as data.” That last part — “as data” — can be admittedly opaque. Is it not all data? Are all the digitized collections we post to Calisphere and elsewhere not “data” already? What we mean when we say this is that we are providing access to the collections, and their accompanying metadata, in bulk as one download. We’ve been talking about this work as the “No More Silence project.”

We’re excited to announce that this work now has a public home on our website, and that you can access almost all of the various outputs of this project in one single location — even better than a convenience store! That location is here: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/archives/aids/data-projects/.

One of the exciting things about the No More Silence project was the way it started with the goal to provide access to the collections as data, but quickly grew to include community building and teaching around this newly-created data resource. The naivete of our “build it and they will come” approach is something that deserves an entire blog post of its own, but the point here is that there were classes, webinars, and computer code that all ended up coming out of this project. We’re excited to be able to make all of those things available to whoever wants to use them as well.

In addition, this project benefitted immensely from the partnerships we were able to undertake with people outside of the UCSF Campus community as well. It’s especially important to thank Dr. Clair Kronk, postdoctoral fellow in medical informatics at the Yale University School of Medicine and creator of the Gender, Sex, and Sexual Orientation Ontology, and Krü Maekdo, founder of the Black Lesbian Archives.

Check it all out here: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/archives/aids/data-projects/

This project was supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.

Elba Clemente-Lambert and the Black Caucus Re-description Project

The latest round of the Black Caucus Re-description project has been completed and uploaded to Calisphere, with the Black Caucus records now fully reflecting the more than 400 items with updated descriptions and metadata through the fabulous work of Elba Clemente-Lambert — founding member of the UCSF Black Caucus.

First UCSF Black Caucus Gala Committee members; Left to right: Ethel Adams, Karen Newhouse, Avis Ransburg, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Diana Farley-Frierson, Darlene Carter Collins, Claudette “CJ” Johnson

Clemente-Lambert undertook the project to update photo descriptions over the course of 2020 and early 2021, working in batches. Many of the photos in question were photos she herself had taken. Clemente-Lambert reached out to her networks — contacting some of the many folks she had worked with over her years at UCSF, even talking with people as far away as Texas. She also reached deep into her own memory — sharing that she could, surprisingly to her, actually remember the names of many folks in photos. “Sometimes,” she said, “it would take me a day or two, but then all of a sudden I would just say the name.” Additionally, Clemente-Lambert has her own collection of Black Caucus event fliers which she was able to turn to to help remember attendees and speakers at events. She recounted that “It got chaotic!”, but after getting her procedures down she was able to record an immense amount of metadata to enrich the description of the Black Caucus records.

Former UCSF custodians gave Clemente-Lambert some of the most helpful information, especially James Aaron and Ernie Badger — nicknamed “Radio” because “he talked so much and knew everything about everybody”. They recounted how the early group would gather at “Soul Row” — a set of benches in the entryway to Medical Sciences building. As Clemente-Lambert shared, “that was a meeting place, a sacred place for us, even though it was out in the open.” The group also used to have bake sales right by the elevator to the cafeteria, knowing that they would get the most sales from hungry cafeteria-goers. 

Clemente-Lambert also noted significant assistance from others as well. Amy Levine of Women’s Resource center had worked closely with the Black Caucus on events, which they would always co-sponsor. Claudette Johnson, who had worked in the Chancellor’s Office, knew a lot of the people in photographs as well. Kathy Ballistari, who worked in hospital administration, knew a lot of people from the hospital and clinics, and also had a lot of “the names just came to me” moments. Linda Glasscock, Clemente-Lambert’s old manager in Labor Relations, also had a lot of helpful information.

 L to R: Denise Harvey, Edna Mayhand, Amy Levine, Leslie Simon, Janet ____ (unknown), Nellie Wong, guest speaker (unknown), Elba Clemente-Lambert.

The full-list of people who helped Clemente-Lambert with this project is as follows: James Aaron, Ethel Adams, Michael Adams, Ernie “Radio” Badger, Kathy Ballistari, Freeman Bradley, Anita Burton, Ira Butler, Sandy Canchola, Dorla Cantu, Charles Clary, Patricia Coleman, Susan Descalso, Diana Farley Frierson, Linda Glasscock, Corrine “Corky” Guttierez, Stan Hicks, Claudette Johnson, David Johnson, Kerry Johnson, Amy Levine, Fred Logan, Crystal Morris, Karen Newhouse, Sandra Norberg, Maryanne Penta, Drew Pitts, Paul Porter, Bob Rojas, Laurie Rojas, Eugene Salazar, Renee Saulter, Adrianne Sooy, Bill Stevens, Eric Vermillion, John Watson, Nancy Wright, Carol Yates

And finally, a big thank you to Jazmin Dew, the Archives staff-member who did much of the work to facilitate this project.

To explore more materials from the UCSF Black Caucus Records, check out the collection on Calisphere and the Online Archive of California (OAC)

Upcoming Workshop on Computer Programming for Grassroots Digital Archives

Don’t miss the upcoming workshop Our Collections Our Data: Grassroots Digital Archives and Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners. This four day workshop will take place online on 7/26, 7/30, 8/2, and 8/4, from 9:30am to 12:30pm (PDT) each day. The workshop will be led by Charlie Macquarie, UCSF Digital Archivist, and Dr. Clair Kronk, postdoctoral researcher at Yale University and creator of the Gender, Sex, and Sexual Orientation (GSSO) ontology, with a presentation from Krü Maekdo, founder of the Black Lesbian Archives, and assistance from Rebecca Tang, programmer with the UCSF Industry Documents Library.

For more information, please see our Library News post here: https://www.library.ucsf.edu/news/workshop-digital-archives-and-programming/

Register here: https://calendars.library.ucsf.edu/calendar/events/our-collections-our-data

This workshop is supported by California Revealed and administered in California by the State Librarian. The program is made possible by funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

Newly-digitized Phyllis Wrightson sketchbook documents creation of Toland Hall murals

Archives is excited to provide access to the sketchbook of Phyllis Wrightson, which has been newly-digitized from within the Bernard Zakheim papers. Wrightson was Zakheim’s assistant during the painting of the frescoes inside UCSF’s Toland Hall, and the two later married. 

Photo of 4 people, from left to right: Joseph Allen, Phyllis Wrightson, Bernard Zakheim, and F. Stanley Durie
Phyllis Wrightson, second from left. (from L to R: Joseph Allen, Phyllis Wrightson, Bernard Zakheim, and F. Stanley Durie). Source: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/81983/s9mw27/

The sketchbook contains fascinating detail of the historical research which went into the mural, and includes notes, clippings, and remarkable sketches made by Wrightson in preparation for the painting of the murals. Wrightson’s sketchbook is notable for the way it illuminates the immense amount of collaborative effort that went into creating a mural such as the Toland Hall frescoes, and documents the both the creative process and aesthetic decisions which were a part of the project. 

Find the sketchbook here: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/81983/s9tg6g/.

The digitization of Wrightson’s notebook has been another fruitful collaboration between Archives and our colleagues in other Library departments, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. We would especially like to thank Andy Panado — Collections Analyst — for his work to create the digital files for this valuable resource.

UCSF Black Caucus Records Re-description Project

This post has been written by Jazmin Dew.

Group photograph of the original Members at the UCSF Black Caucus Gala in February 2005. From left to right are Elba Clemente-Lambert, Charles Clarey, Claudette Coleman, Freeman Bradley, Anitra (Koehler) Patterson, Paul Porter, Leon Johnson, and Walter "Pop" Nelson (sitting).
Founding members at the UCSF Black Caucus Gala in February 2005. From the left to right: Elba Clemente-Lambert, Charles Clarey, Claudette Coleman, Freeman Bradley, Anitra (Koehler) Patterson, Paul Porter, Leon Johnson, and Walter “Pop” Nelson (sitting).

We are thrilled to announce that the UCSF Black Caucus Records digital collection has added and updated descriptions for over 400 items. The collection documents the history of the UCSF Black Caucus, which began in 1968 to address the social inequalities and inequities at the University of California. It contains photographs, videos, correspondence, publications, and meeting materials about the formation and activities of the Black Caucus. Some of the major events held by the UCSF Black Caucus include the protest to end of racism and discrimination at the University of California, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week and Black History Month programs, in conjunction with other campus organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, and annual Gala fundraisers.

Group photograph of the founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus in December 2013 taken at the Millberry Union following Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “Last Lecture Series” at Cole Hall. Standing, left to right, are Bill Stevens, Joseph Lambert, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Michael Adams, Norma Faris Taylor, Dr. John Watson, and Charles Clarey. Sitting, left to right, are Joanne Lewis, Carol Yates, Ethel Adams, Crystal Morris, Karen Newhouse.
Founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus in December 2013 at the Millberry Union following Dr. Daniel Lowenstein’s “Last Lecture Series” at Cole Hall. . Standing, left to right, are Bill Stevens, Joseph Lambert, Elba Clemente-Lambert, Michael Adams, Norma Faris Taylor, Dr. John Watson, and Charles Clarey. Sitting, left to right, are Joanne Lewis, Carol Yates, Ethel Adams, Crystal Morris, Karen Newhouse.

A substantial portion of this incredible collection was complied, preserved, and donated to the archives by Elba Clemente-Lambert. Throughout the recent metadata enrichment project, she has painstakingly researched and provided more detailed descriptions of events and identification of individuals in photographs. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert collaborated with her UCSF colleagues and former Black Caucus members (now retirees) on what became a true crowdsourcing project that couldn’t have been successfully accomplished without her guidance and community support. (We will list the names of all people who supported this project in future blog posts). These additions will enable users to learn about the organization’s history, membership, leadership, and accomplishments.

Elba Clemente-Lambert sitting
Elba Clemente-Lambert

Elba Clemente-Lambert was born and raised in Spanish Harlem in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Psychology from the City University of New York. She began her career in 1968 at UCSF as a Secretary II in the Department of Neurology. Then, she obtained an on-the-job training position (initiated by the efforts of the UCSF Black Caucus) in the Personnel Department (now Human Resources). Soon after joining the University of California, Elba became one of the founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus. She was elected to various positions in the Black Caucus’ Steering Committee, including Corresponding Secretary and Chair of the Publications Committee, as well as Member-at-Large. However, one of her most important positions was as “the unofficial, but official” photographer. Her passion for photography began in her high school journalism class, which stirred her belief that “we need to document what is occurring in our environment and beyond”. This dedication unintentionally led her to become a historian for the UCSF Black Caucus. Elba worked at UCSF until 1997 when she retired as a Senior Human Resource Specialist. In retirement, Elba continued to work occasionally with the UCSF Black Caucus while involved in the management of Creative Music Emporium (records store), established in April 1985 together with her late husband, first Black Officer hired at UCSF, Joseph G. Lambert, who decided to change his career after serving 18 years to become an entrepreneur in the music industry.   

We would like to express our gratitude to all those who helped make this project possible: Mrs. Clemente-Lambert, Marisa McFarlane, and Charles Macquarie.

To learn more about the current activities of the UCSF Black Caucus, check out this link: https://blackcaucus.ucsf.edu/

To explore more materials from the UCSF Black Caucus Records, check out the collection on digital portal, Calisphere and the Online Archive of California (OAC).

Dr. Robert E. Allen, Jr., First Black Clinical Professor of Surgery at UCSF

Robert E. Allen, Jr., MD, (1935-2018), was born in Blountstown, Florida and always aspired to become a doctor. In pursuit of his dreams, Allen received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida A&M University, master’s degree in Genetics from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in Medicine from Meharry Medical College. He completed his residency in surgery at UC San Francisco, and a fellowship in surgery oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Allen also completed two additional postdoctoral fellowships in surgery at the National Institute of Health and peripheral vascular research at San Francisco General Hospital. As a SFGH fellow in trauma, he organized the ambulance paramedic program while training under F. William Blaisdell, MD.

Robert Allen Jr. in hospital, David Powers collection, 1990-1991
Robert Allen Jr., David Powers collection, 1990-1991

Dr. Allen began his career at UCSF as a Surgical Oncologist, specializing in Melanoma Surgery. He soon became the first Black Clinical Professor of Surgery at UC San Francisco, serving as a faculty member for over four decades.

Allen was a cofounder of the Northern California Melanoma Center with Dr. Lynn E. Spitler and other surgeons. Here, he participated in consultation panels and surgeries on the Center’s patients until his retirement.

He has authored many articles for medical periodicals, wrote chapters in medical publications, and spoke a medical conventions throughout the United States and Europe. In addition, he was a member of various honor societies, including the UCSF Naffziger Surgical Society.

To learn more about Dr. Allen’s work, check out these articles:



*Authored by Jazmin Dew*

Health and Social Justice Pioneer, Dr. Vicki Alexander

Vicki Alexander at SFGH with group of patients. Perinatal Health Project.
Vicki Alexander at SFGH. Perinatal Health Project.

Vicki Alexander, MD, has dedicated her life to improving the social determinants of public health.

Alexander attended the UC San Francisco, where she completed her medical degree and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1974. She went on to Columbia University, where she obtained her master’s degree in Public Health.

Dr. Alexander began as an Ob-Gyn Clinical Instructor at San Francisco General Hospital. She soon became the director of SFGH’s Perinatal Health Project, which served high-risk mothers and infants in the community. Alexander then relocated to New York, working as a clinical instructor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Harlem Hospital. Eventually, she returned to the west coast and became the Maternal Child Health Director and Health Officer for the City of Berkeley until she retired in 2006.

Vicki Alexander at SFGH with mother and child. Perinatal Health Project.
Vicki Alexander at SFGH. Perinatal Health Project.

Alexander has participated in many organizations to improve the living conditions for women and children, including: Rainbow Coalition, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reproductive Rights National Network, Planned Parenthood, City Material and Child Health.

In 1978, she established the Coalition to Fight Infant Mortality in Oakland, which helped women with medical care and social issues.

In 2000, Alexander began the Black Infant Health program in Berkeley, which grew from her coalition at Highland Hospital. This was the foundational step to the creation of the Alameda County Coalition to decrease infant mortality.

Alexander is also the current founder and board president of Healthy Black Families (HBF), Inc., which dovetails with the Black Infant Health program. It was founded as a non-profit organization in July 2013 to support the health, growth, development, and future of Black individuals and families.

For her devotion towards health and social justice, Dr. Vicki has won many awards, including: Women of the Year Award (2011); Martin Luther King, Lifetime Achievement Award (2014); National Jefferson Award for Community Service (2015); Alameda County African American Black History Month Award (2017); Madame CJ Walker Award for Black Women (2017); and 15th Assembly District Woman of the Year Award (2017).

To learn more about Dr. Vicki, check out these articles available in our digital collection on HathiTrust and Synapse Archive:


*Authored by Jazmin Dew*

New Archives Intern: Ganzolboo Ayurzana

Today’s post is an introduction from Ganzolboo Ayurzana, one of our current interns here in the Archives. Ganzolboo has actually been working with us for several months now, and he is helping us inventory born-digital collections materials which are currently stored with physical collections so that we can capture the data off of them before they become unreadable.

Hello, my name is Ganzolboo Ayurzana. I am a senior year student at San Francisco State University. I am currently pursuing a double major of computer and math. I am from Mongolia, and I came to this country in pursuit of greater knowledge and career. One thing interesting about me is that I am able to converse in 5 different languages — Mongolian, Korean, English, Japanese, and Russian. Ever since I was young I had a talent for picking up new languages faster than my peers. In my free time I like to play basketball, hang out with my friends, and write computer code. I am also a huge Marvel movie fan, and every movie that came out in theaters I would go watch at least twice; sometimes even thrice. I also love Harry Potter, and I have read the book and watched the movie enough times to know about it all inside out.

I am very much looking forward to getting to know this excellent group of people and learning more about what librarians do.