Twitter and Facebook

I sent out a group e-mail today (via the archive – nra mailing list) appealing for any interesting articles about the way Twitter and Facebook are archived. I do not know ANYTHING about this but I really want to. Which tweets are recorded for the future? My money is on Stephen Fry. Are all tweets saved for a week and then deleted? A month? A year? Do they only exist until everybody deletes them? What about Facebook? I know the Facebook movie is coming (apparently it stars Justin Timberlake – dear God….) but is that all that people will have to remember of the origins of Facebook in 200 years time? However, with 350 million users already, and people signing up daily, how on earth do you choose what to archive and what not to archive? Who ISN’T on Facebook?  If anybody reads anything that has any relevance to any of my blabberings on the subject (hence why I need to know MORE!!) Please let me know, and please let me know all your opinions. In an age where the dictionary is going out of print and more and more people sit glued to their computers (me being no exception) I think that these new media archives have to be looked at as a huge part in the future of archives. I have experience in digitizing and electronic cataloguing but it seems that the volume of stuff that needs to be digitised cannot keep up with the technology. Can someone please reveal to me the future? I want to know…


24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Helpful archivist
    Oct 04, 2010 @ 22:35:52

    Digital records are potentially a huge future problem – but Twitter tweets may be safe!:


  2. Sarah
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 09:25:10

    Holly, There’s no selection or appraisal procedure for archiving tweets. The Library of Congress preserves them all:


  3. holly
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 14:46:52


  4. john smith
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 00:15:03


    You need to get some lessons in language and grammar and find out what the archive profession is all about.

    Start asking questions where you are working; network; work hard.

    Hesitate to say it, but moaning in cyberspace never got anyone a job, just a reputation …




  5. Wannabe Political Archivist
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 09:51:17

    To add my two cents, Library of Congress only accessions tweets that are public. So if a user has chosen to protect their tweets i.e. only make them visible to their followers then it won’t be picked up by the LOC.

    Good luck, Holly. I was originally going to tackle this topic for my Masters’ dissertation but chickened out.


  6. Wannabe Political Archivist
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 09:52:52

    P.S. Despite the increase of digitally born records, the printed book will never become obsolete. Same way that increased use of computers has not rendered good old pen and paper obsolete.


  7. Richard M. Davis
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 10:25:09

    Now if it’s Digital Preservation you’re interested in, I recommend you check out the activities of the Digital Preservation Coalition ( which should in turn lead you to a wealth of resources about the DP activities of its members.

    Our own blog (ULCC’s DA Blog details many DP activities in recent years, and you might be interested in the downloadable Guide To Web Preservation produced by the JISC PoWR project

    Marieke Guy’s Beginner’s Guide to Digital Preservation blog is also worth adding to your feed-reader!

    BTW, well done on the success of your blog!! Ignore the trolls: your forbearance is commendable!


  8. Becky Emms
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 10:29:36

    I guess on a personal level such as Twitter/Facebook then the archiving is a mixure of site server and personal preference. I know you can delete comments/emails etc on Facebook but have never really investigated Twitter. But then again if it’s a personal site then why would anyone be interested in archiving them?
    On a higher level, government etc then maybe it is worth doing but a massive headache surely. I project I was working on in Birmingham meant we had to buy an extra hard drive just to store the pictures. Much like paper archives, I guess there’s a limit somewhere as to how much you can store.
    PS Really loving the blog, you’re now one of my bookmarks!


  9. 80GB
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 10:30:24

    How fantastic that someone wanting to join the archives profession has thought about, and is clearly interested in, the preservation of digital information. To take slight issue (nicely!) with Helpful Archivist, I wouldn’t describe digital preservation as a ‘problem’ – although I’d agree it is a challenge. And it’s certainly not an issue for the ‘future’ – its something every archivist should be thinking about, and acting upon, now. There are plenty of resources available on the internet to find out more, but if you start to feel overwhelmed by the amount to read, you might like to look at the DigiMan animations on YouTube for a fun introduction to some digital preservation basics –

    I’d also recommend some short articles which are now quite old but put some of the counter-arguments succinctly and should get you thinking:
    – The two ‘provocative position papers’ from DPE ( – one of them is about the ‘how do we choose what to archive’ issue that you raise
    – Chris Rusbridge’s 2006 ‘Excuse Me?’ article in Ariadne
    You might not understand all the technical issues, but that doesn’t matter, you’ll get the gist of what they are on about


  10. Siobhan King
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 10:54:17

    Others have answered your question about Twitter so I’ll leave it at that. As for other social media such as youtube, facebook and blogs, I would say these are collected on a nationalist basis or at least in my experience this is so. I come from New Zealand where blogs sit squarely under the definition of “publication” in the National Library of New Zealand Act which is our local provision for legal deposit. Facebook and youtube are more problematic to collect under the aegis of legal deposit because of the technical and legal issues associated with it. I know that social media pages on New Zealand music such as Myspace and music shairing sites are collected when a channel is identified as originating in New Zealand.

    These are all selected by subject, far from the traditional appraisal method. This partly reflects that the project is squarely based within the Library and reflects a library collection management ethos rather than an appraisal, arrangement and description approach. It is partly due to the collection management policy inherited (Turnbull who bequeated the library wanted to collect everything available on New Zealand and the Pacific , which at the time was only mildl and unreasonable expectation0. but it may also be due to the nature and size of the web, subject based may be the only way it can be comprehended at this point. You might want to look into web spheres as discussed by Foot and Schneider who worked on the 9/11 Archive. This ties websites and draws line by considering more than just the subject matter.

    Web archiving is a growing hobby among ethusiastic post Roy Rosenzweig who was a historian who promoted the idea of historians compiling their own archives and using the web to solicit for oral histories. Yet another can of worms.

    By far the most ambitious hobbyist is Brewster Kahle who receives equal amounts of praise and criticism for his Internet Archive. The IA lacks the mandate of national collectors, as well as the transparency of collection management policies and legal challenge etc but it’s interesting to note how many projects, including Foot and Schneider’s, and national libraries’, depend on the Internet Archive for material that they haven’t managed to capture.

    You’ve just scraped the surface of an interesting and challenging topic. Hope you investigation goes well. I look forward to seeing what else you find.


  11. Helpful archivist
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 15:00:32

    A quick response (also nicely!) to 80GB – my comment was influenced mostly by my experiences of working primarily in under-resourced organisations where there is little or electronic records management. I’ve seen places where loss of digital records is already proving a problem but dealing with this is always put off to some future date. In all my roles, I have thought about how to deal this issue but my means to act on it have been very limited despite bashing plenty of people over the head about it. I loved the YouTube video but metadata and controlled vocabularies just aren’t happening in most places!

    I am however aware that there is excellent work going on in some areas and great opportunities for archivists – go for it, Holly!


  12. Marchivist
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 17:29:33

    Thank you for starting some interesting conversations. I’m an archivist working in (you guessed it!) one of those under-resourced organisations. We really should be doing something about digital preservation but we don’t know where to start – so the links and comments here have been really useful – thanks everyone!

    Also, Holly, it might be worth getting some records management experience if you can – I’ve found it useful to have done a bit of both and it looks good on the CV. Good luck.


  13. 80GB
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 20:56:05

    @Helpful Archivist, you are right, of course, but then again I never yet met an archivist who thought that their operation was lavishly funded :). My point is merely that we (as a profession, and particularly in encouraging budding members of our profession) need to stop talking about ‘problems’ as if they can’t be solved, or that we expect/hope someone else will come along and solve them for us (IT people, electronic records managers, ‘senior management’, er, etc), or that we’ll perhaps get round to them sometime in the future. Instead, we have to accept the limitations we work under, embrace the challenge, and start looking for things we *can* do, instead of things that we can’t. It isn’t all (at all, I’m tempted to say, although that might be a slight exaggeration) about metadata and controlled vocabularies. The cultural challenges (the ones archivists are well placed to address) are as critical as the technical ones, and increasingly there *are* tools available to make practical digital preservation viable, even for small organisations and places that don’t have fancy electronic records management programmes. Of course, what each individual archivist might be able to achieve may be tiny in the overall scheme of things, but at least we’ll be able to say that we tried. Even if we try, we may still fail, but if we don’t try, and don’t engage in the debate, we’ll certainly fail. And as Helpful Archivist says, there are some fantastic opportunities here for archivists who are enthusiastically engaging in the debate.

    I appreciate that knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming, but hopefully the comments here have helped a little with that, at least. I agree – go for it!

    All of which is getting slightly away from Holly’s original question about social media, which is itself a highly pertinent topic – see this post, comments and links on the ArchivesNext blog:


  14. John773
    Oct 29, 2010 @ 05:05:28

    Very nice site!


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