Tweeting for posterity

image of a page from Beowulf
‘Should a world class library preserve Stephen Fry’s tweets?’ No this is not a question on an obscure exam paper but a question posed by the CEO of the British Library last week at the Woodstock Literary Festival. If you think this is a mad notion you might be interested to know that the Library of Congress in America has recently announced that it will archive all Twitter material.

Museums and libraries have always kept material about the everyday life of previous generations. It is hugely valuable to researchers in understanding cultural and social history. For those of us working in destinations we know that what puts a heritage attraction on the ‘must-see’ list for visitors is not the collections and archives per se but how curators use them to bring alive the past and tell an engaging story. People are intrinsically interested in other people whether it is the celebrities of previous centuries or the average man and woman in the street.

Of course it is not just Twitter that captures 21st century life and issues online – how about blogs, YouTube, Facebook and other social media. They are the equivalent of oral history, diaries, letters and manuscripts. I wonder how archivists will make decisions on what to keep and what to abandon?

So the next time you upload some photos on to your Facebook page or tweet the latest issue remember that you might just be creating a part of the archives of the future.