Collective Memory, Responsibility, and Web Archiving

by Amanda Greenwood - May 11, 2021

Screenshot of the No Gun Ri Digital Archive

One of the remarkable aspects of web archiving work is that it allows for greater access to digital content. This serves an obvious purpose of helping scholars and researchers access material that they cannot access in person, but it also lends itself to the visibility and accessibility of voices or communities that have been oppressed or misrepresented throughout history. Through the UAlbany Web Archiving Project, archivists at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives focus not only on capturing, preserving, and making accessible New York State and University-related web content, but they also are granted the responsibility of helping preserve important projects that are the creation of researchers or faculty. Through these digital repositories, users can learn more about the subject matter, but they serve a greater purpose in representing, or even reworking, how a historical event is described. One example found in the UAlbany Web Archives Collection is the No Gun Ri Digital Archive.

The No Gun Ri Digital Archive was created by UAlbany’s Dr. Donghee Sinn, along with members of her No Gun Ri Research Team, and it acts as a digital memorial that describes a mass killing of South Korean civilians by the United States Army in the beginning of the Korean War. In late July of 1950, American troops were brought into the country to fight against the North Korean army. As the North Korean army advanced into the country, American troops in the 7th Calvary Regiment ordered the civilian residents of two villages located in YongDong County to evacuate to the south. They stopped under the No Gun Ri railroad bridge, and an order was given for American planes to attack the refugees, killing an estimated 250 to 300 people. Explaining the reason for the attack, the U.S. Army claimed that there were a number of North Korean infiltrators hiding among the civilians.

While the majority of Koreans are aware of the event as it is an important part of their war history, many Americans are not aware of this atrocity. This digital archive can thus serve an important purpose to make others aware of this crime, and to give a voice to the survivors and families of the massacred so that they can tell this event from their point of view. UAlbany has a responsibility to decide how to present this event through the archiving of these materials; moreover, within this obligation there is an ethical decision that the narrative of the massacre be told by the Korean people. Different interpretations and narratives about historical events can be reconstructed according to archival work, so it is important that the creation of archival records be presented accurately so that they can be retained as evidence and hold those accountable for the crimes they commit. Archiving can help people forget about the incorrect or dishonest narratives once offered and focus on re-remembering history from a more realistic and accurate perspective, but it can also support the collective memory of a group that is struggling to have their voices heard.

To access the No Gun Ri Digital Archive, click here. To browse the UAlbany web archives, click here.