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Report: Canada Looks to Archive Tweets, Other Social Media

But U.S. preservation efforts show that Canada’s task won't be easy.

by / July 17, 2012
Gatineau Preservation Centre at Library and Archives Canada contain laboratories where archival material is preserved.

There’s no Dewey Decimal system for the Internet, as Canadian archivists are discovering.

The Vancouver Sun reports that in an attempt to bring retrieval of all things Canadian to modern times, the Library and Archives Canada agency is looking for a way to archive tweets, blogs, and other online documents.

But it’s a difficult task.
"Any kind of historical record would be entirely incomplete without having some record of YouTube or the blogosphere or Twitter," Greg Elmer, director of the Centre for the Study of Social Media at Ryerson University in Toronto, told the Sun. "We simply don't have access to the means by which information is stored, indexed and formatted on YouTube or Twitter. It makes it an unreliable way of archiving information.”

Library and Archives Canada, the nation’s national library, houses nearly 3.2 million megabytes of information in electronic formats, as well as 21 million photographs, 270,000 hours of video and sound recordings, and much more.

In 2010, the U.S. Library of Congress announced it would archive every tweet since 2006 and onward, striking a deal with Twitter to receive all public tweets ever recorded. But U.S. officials admit it’s been a difficult project.

The hurdle of manually archiving the non-stop stream of online information is a modern problem, and most archival institutions have not yet caught up to modern technology, Elmer said.

Photo: Gatineau Preservation Centre at Library and Archives Canada houses laboratories where archival material is preserved.

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