UK Web Archive blog

07 February 2013

Archiving social media: a workshop report

I was very pleased to be invited to a recent workshop on social media archiving. It was organised by Laura Lannin and colleagues at the Museum of London, to whom many thanks for a wide-ranging and stimulating afternoon.

The day saw a cluster of diverse and useful presentations. Among them was our very own Helen Hockx-Yu, on the potential and problems relating to social media archiving on a national scale, as we experience them at the UK Web Archive. Web archiving is always a technological arms race, with the archiving technologies having to adapt constantly as the way the web works continues to change.

The other presentations between them showed the wide variety of perspectives from which the whole issue needs to be approached. Two projects examined the way in which Twitter can be used as a means of identifying content on the wider web that should be preserved, as well as an archive resource in itself. Both projects came from within specialist museums, and both were concerned with the Olympics. The Victoria and Albert Museum (represented by Catherine Flood) had monitored Twitter to identify graphically significant visual resources, shared on Flickr as the Collect London 2012 collection. The Museum of London (in partnership with Peter Ride of the University of Westminster) had gone a step further, bringing together a team of Citizen Curators to keep eyes and ears open during the Games for important resources, and to identify them by means of the Twitter hashtag #citizencurators for later harvesting.

In contrast, Ruth Page (University of Leicester, or @ruthtweetpage) gave us the perspective of a linguist interested in the analysis of large corpora of tweets, for the patterns of language usage within them. And although there was not a presentation from this perspective, several of those present were responsible for social media engagement between museums and their users, and are faced with working out how best to archive their own social media output.

In a previous post, Nicola Johnson reported on the difficulties of implementing web archiving activity in national libraries charged with archiving the web outside their own walls. This workshop neatly showed the different concerns of a wider group of interested parties. Whether it is national libraries, museums or users; whether it is social media content itself or the other resources they link to, there is much to think about when it comes to social media archiving. 

Peter Webster (@pj_webster)

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