Tweeting Your Way Into History

In a sign of the times, the Library of Congress just announced that it will begin archiving Twitter messages (tweets).  These public messages will reside alongside other important historial collections, like Civil War letters and Depression era photographs.  Why bother, you might ask.  Why such an effort to archive the random musings of millions of people?

The Library of Congress blogger, Matt Raymond, has argued that there’s research gold to be found within these archives.  It’s easy to see why.  From a historical perspective, Twitter messages will offer future historians and sociologists a wealth of research data and insight into our century.  Think of Twitter messages as the photographs and personal letters from a century ago that make their way into the historical collections of today.  Or, as Dylan Casey at Google, has argued, “Tweets and other short-form updates create a history of commentary that can provide valuable insights in what’s happened and how people have reacted.”

It’s easy for some to dismiss these tweets as simply ephemeral nonsense, but they may very well provide part of the record for future generations.

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