Creating and Archiving Electronic Literature During the Pandemic

Critical Writing
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The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the way cultural heritage organisations engage with their audiences. At a time when public exhibitions and events have to be postponed indefinitely or cancelled, many GLAM institutions have chosen to increase their online presence instead, looking at virtual platforms as a means to deliver content, showcase their collections and drive engagement. The British Library Simulator ( is a brief video game created and released in June 2020, as a way to engage with our audience while the physical library buildings were closed. The game, created using the free online game engine Bitsy, allows players to explore a pixelated rendition of some popular areas of the British Library; by moving their avatar and interacting with other characters in the game, players can learn facts about the history of the building and discover some of the projects the library staff have been working on during the pandemic. One of the main projects we wanted to raise awareness about is the Emerging Formats project: the British Library, with the other five UK Legal Deposit Libraries, have been researching, collecting, archiving and preserving complex digital publications produced in the UK for the past four years. We curate a growing collection of web-based interactive narratives hosted in the UK Web Archive (, which includes a variety of format types and interaction patterns, and have just recently launched a collection of all winning and shortlisted entries for the New Media Writing Prize ( While most of the collected entries are only available on Library premises for legal reasons, a few can be accessed remotely, allowing for part of the collection to be accessible even during lockdown. Another aim of the game was to highlight the British Library’s effort to collect and archive around COVID-19: the Library has been collecting radio stations recordings, interviews, websites and testimonies to capture the experience of lockdown and living through the pandemic. These also include examples of e-lit produced in the UK, as well as extensive dedicated collections in the UK Web Archive ( and the British Library Sounds ( Both are mentioned in the game, in an effort to direct audiences to our digital resources and bring our steady online services into the spotlight. The British Library Simulator offered us a chance to present libraries not just as keepers of knowledge, but as active and engaging content creators; it allowed us to reach new audiences, outside of the usual academic circle; by being an interactive narrative itself, it helped us stress the importance of collecting and preserving contemporary born-digital publications, as well as provide and example of the electronic literature the Library is interested in collecting; and lastly, it highlighted our ongoing effort to keep offering our services online even while the physical Library remains closed.

Rossi ELO 2021 Poster
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Carlota Salvado...