Posted by: stackedfivehigh | May 17, 2010

What’s the future of archiving?

Things have been moving steadily in my two projects at the museum, working on the box list and the database alternately.  While I’ve been working on these, I’ve been spending some time talking to Jen about the future of archiving, and perhaps library sciences in general.

This originally came up because we were discussing the Library of Congress plan to archive Twitter.  All of it.  So it begs the questions – how, and why?  I think there are a number of ways that this collection will prove to be valuable.  Tweets are rather unique –  the brevity of each record, combined with the enormous volume opens up new opportunities for seeing social trends.  This leads to new questions of what to preserve in the digital era.  So many pieces of information and communication never become hard copy.  What should be preserved?  And to the other initial question – how?

I’m not talking about the technical aspect – that’s another post for another day.  This is more to do with cataloging.  I realize that Twitter is unique in its proportions.  The volume of records, and with such limited information to each, is very unusual, and will probably require a unique solution to properly store.  We discussed the options that were available, and what some of the logical choices could be.  Organize by date and time, and then by author?  By author, then by post date?  I suppose without a particular purpose for the information, any basic database storage will be fine, but the mass is sort of overwhelming.

This is really a new frontier in archiving.  Purely digital information is a whole new arena and the rules haven’t really been established yet.  It will be interesting to see how the Twitter archives are handled, and what parameters are used for deciding what content is considered valuable enough to keep in other venues.

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