Congratulations LC! And ‘tweets’ can be Federal records too


Congratulations to our colleagues at the Library of Congress on their recent announcement of their acquisition of the complete archive of Twitter.  This certainly represents a unique and compelling addition to their collection, and we very much share in their excitement.

In light of a comment by an LC official, I would like to clarify the important distinction between the work of the Library and the work that we do here at the National Archives.  In an interview, one library official is quoted as saying about the library: “This is our national archive.”

While I understand his intent, the statement is a bit misleading.  The National Archives is charged with identifying and providing permanent preservation and access to those records of the Federal Government significant enough to warrant it.  

Needless to say, records created through social media have introduced additional new challenges for NARA and the Federal agencies that create or receive them.  These are challenges that are also shared with archives and libraries around the world.  We work with over 250 Federal agencies and their components to appropriately identify and schedule Federal records regardless of format, and these same Federal agencies are responsible for establishing programs to manage these records.  And yes, some of the ‘tweets’ exchanged through the Twitter service are most certainly Federal records.

This summer, we will issue a NARA Bulletin that will give Federal agencies guidance about their use of Twitter and other “web 2.0” services.  We expect this guidance will help Federal agencies understand how to disposition Federal records in this technologically complex and socially collaborative world.

It’s great to see that the Library of Congress and the National Archives are both working to solve the challenges presented by the long-term preservation of digital information.  We look forward to continuing to work with the library and many others to identify best practices and to share knowledge.


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