The Archivists Didn’t Want to Tweet

April 4, 2009

I had a chance to talk with some historians today about the advent of Twitter and blogs. They were mildly interested, though even the archivists among them could not see what the problem would be with having communication, including government, business and other organizational communication, conducted through a medium that was not controlled by the organization. I pointed that part of the issue out to them then asked (more-or-less in these words) “How are we going to archive these records if we don’t have physical control of them? Not to mention maintain repect des fonds or context of records that are part of a complex collection of data in cyberspace? How are we going to manage these records?” The response I received from each and every one of them (okay, it was only 3, but what-the-hey) was something along the lines of “We need to be sure people don’t use this type of stuff for business!” Obviously a gut reaction; not thought out. But I was reminded of a few years ago when I attended at least 3 different workshop/sessions and read several e-mails, all with titles along the lines of “Just Say ‘No’ to Google!” A bit late for that. And it is a bit late for this. The Web 2.0 world is also Business/Organization 2.0 and will become more so rather than less so.

The creators of the records are not just doing what is technologically efficient for their organization, but what is humanly most efficient. They are using the technologies with which their employees and customers are most familiar. When those records come to us, we will either understand the technology and how it is used, as well as embrace it as a means of providing access, or we will be without the records. I suspect that being without these records will leave an archives with only a small hole, say the size of one that would have existed in an institution that had insisted years ago that it would only accept records that were handwritten or generated by a manual type writer.

Just thoughts.

The Heritic


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