Purpose of the Study

Toward the end of 2019, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) quickly spread from China to the world. As of May 2020, Japan is under a state of emergency and, seemingly, undergoing a complete change from how it was before the COVID-19 outbreak. In this crisis situation, one of the aims of public history is to enable the recording of the rapid worldwide change that is being experienced by people and pass on memories of life under pandemic conditions to the next generation.

This study discusses the Corona Archive @ Kansai University [Figure 1], which was initiated on April 17, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Kansai University Open Research Center for Asian Studies (KU-ORCAS), from the digital public historical perspective.

Fig. 1: Screenshot of the Corona Archive @ Kansai University

Significance of the Study

The Corona Archive @ Kansai University is a community-based digital archive project that collects records and memories from the students, faculties, staffs, and their families of the Kansai University during the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Federation for Public History (IFPH) is mapping the COVID-19 archival activities taking place in various countries and, according to the IFPH, 308 cases have been registered as of May 1, 2020 (Cauvin, 2020). However, there are few examples of such an initiative in Japan other than the Corona Archive @ Kansai University. Hence, the significance of this study is that the Corona Archive @ Kansai University can be a model case for the community archival projects for pandemic in Japan.

Construction of the Corona Archive @ Kansai University

In this study, we particularly examined the following four topics associated with the Corona Archive @ Kansai University construction.

(1) Eligibility for submission

Targeting the entire nation or all the people living in Osaka Prefecture, where our university is located, does not conform to KU-ORCAS's aim of branding Kansai University's research. In addition, we are concerned that the management of increasing numbers of posts will be difficult from the server specification and manpower perspective. Hence, we decided to allow submissions from Kansai University members alone.

(2) System construction and material collection

To ensure that even a single person could easily and quickly build a system that enables users to register materials by themselves, we adapted the open source software Omeka Classic. Using some plugins, the Corona Archive @ Kansai University enables users to register text data, images, videos, and audio files and maps these materials on the Open Street Map. In addition, the metadata conform to the DCMI Metadata Terms.

(3) Treatment of rights

For data release, we have requested contributors in advance to release their data under the CC BY-NC 4.0. In addition, we have considered the portrait and privacy rights of individuals depicted in photographs. Therefore, the Corona Archive @ Kansai University asks users to confirm the license and whether they have received permissions from the photographed individuals to archive the data. Further, before publishing the materials, we check the data to ensure that they do not violate the privacy of individuals. The users themselves can indicate their intention to keep their posted data private.

(4) Long-term storage

KU-ORCAS is a time-limited project, and the long-term preservation of the collected data cannot be carried out by KU-ORCAS alone. Accordingly, we have developed a data preservation system in cooperation with the university museum and archive.

Situation after the Project Implementation

As of May 1, 2020, at the time of writing this paper, it is about two weeks since the start of the project; hence, I can describe only the situation immediately after project implementation. Two weeks have passed since I started, so I can only describe the situation immediately after the start.

As of May 1, there have been 22 registrations. Among them, two were kept private: one case was set as private by the contributor himself, and the other was made private because it contained sensitive personal information.

As described earlier, any members of Kansai University can contribute to our digital archive, although the contributors are almost always only KU-ORCAS members. Therefore, most of the posts are centered on the university’s Senriyama Campus (Suita City, Osaka Prefecture), where KU-ORCAS is located, although Kansai University has several campuses. In addition to text data, images, videos, and audio files can be attached to posts; however, currently, only image files are accepted as attachments to posts.

Future Issues

There are many challenges ahead. Many challenges exist in the maintenance of the Corona Archive @ Kansai University. In particular, significant issues are involved in material collection. The KU-ORCAS does not have a high level of visibility on campus because it is a time-limited organization. In addition, because of the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the university’s public relations tools (official Twitter and Facebook accounts, and press releases provided by the university's Public Relations Division) were allowed to consider only topics related to educational affairs. In addition, due to the widespread need for social distancing, it is impossible to hold events that bring people together. Therefore, requests to contribute records and memories have been limited to the SNS and website of the KU-ORCAS, which further limit the collection of stories.

Another challenge pertains to the use of the collected data. The records and memories of Kansai University members should be available for use by not only the university’s constituents themselves but also future researchers. Hence, it is necessary to promote the construction of similar COVID-19 archives in Japan and strengthen the ties among domestic and international archives.


Corona Archive @ Kansai University. https://www.annex.ku-orcas.kansai-u.ac.jp/covid19archive, accessed 2020-09-22.

Kikuchi, Nobuhiko. “Branding East Asian Cultural Studies By”Opening" Access to Research Resources, Research Groups, and Know-Hows". DH2019. https://dev.clariah.nl/files/dh2019/boa/0182.html, accessed 2020-09-22.

Cauvin, Thomas. “Mapping Public History Projects about COVID 19.” International Federation for Public History. https://ifph.hypotheses.org/3225, accessed 2020-09-22.