Writing a New Kind of History: Twitter & The Library of Congress

rough draft of the Declaration of Independence - on of the Library's treasured documents

rough draft of the Declaration of Independence - one of the Library's treasured documents

You know that phrase that’s always thrown around: “this will go down in the history books. . .” etc.? Well naturally, it’s starting to look like the change in how (and what) we read and how we get our news is also starting to shape the way we’ll record it. The Library of Congress and Twitter announced yesterday that The Library of Congress will be acquiring the entire Twitter archive for historical reference. With over 50 million tweets a day, after all, some of those are bound to be important, right?

like this gem.

like this gem.

Now, of course while they have access to the whole archive, only “significant digital content” will be recorded with help from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, which is currently working on a strategy to sort through and preserve that digital data. Matt Raymond, who posted yesterday on behalf of the Library, gave examples of the kinds of tweets to be included:

“. . .the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election, and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter.”

Collecting web-based information isn’t new for Library, Raymond said in his post that The Library has been “collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000,” and that they now hold over 167 terabytes of strictly web-based content.

Biz Stone from Twitter posted an announcement with additional information on the official blog yesterday as well:

“The open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. This is something we firmly believe and it has driven many of our decisions regarding openness. Today we are also excited to share the news that Google has created a wonderful new way to revisit tweets related to historic events. They call it Google Replay because it lets you relive a real time search from specific moments in time.”

So tweet carefully friends. You just might be making history (but in all honestly — probably not).