In January the Museum of London held a seminar on Collecting Social Media. Here Digital Curator Ellie Miles and Laura Lannin, Higher Education Programme Manager, give a brief overview of what was discussed on the day:
Social media is part of how we experience and record London. It can be used to build communities, inform us, annoy us and, if we let it, it can take over our lives. It can be used to share news and images about events as they happen, it can be used to discuss the city and it can be used to organise and share information about protests. As Hilary wrote about last year, the Museum of London has started to explore how to collect social media and other born digital objects. The Museum of London has a long history of contemporary collecting, and an interest in collecting objects which comment on the social and contemporary history of London and Londoners. It was with this view that in 2012 the Museum and the University of Westminster designed a project to collect social media as a museum object. #Citizencurators aimed to explore ways to document significant events in London, and investigate the benefits and implications of collecting social media as an object to be archived and curated. The tweets that the Museum collected represented the highs, lows, support and opposition to the Olympics. #Citizencurators raised challenges too, opening the door to questions about how the Museum could collect social media.
So, what do you do when you have a number of unanswered questions which you want to explore further? We decided that you invite people with similar interests and ideas to come and talk to you over coffee. In the end we didn’t actually answer our questions, but just asked more!
These were the top questions we discussed:
- How can a social history museum collect social media as an object?
- How do museums collect, store and display social media? How will museums be able to do this in the future?
- Museums have started to explore collecting and curating the digital world – but how do we realistically and idealistically approach this and what are our aspirations?
- What lessons have museums, archives and researchers already learnt about storing and using social media?
- Researchers are already using social media, with a wide and varied scope. What can museums collect that will be useful to researchers in the future ?
- In 2012 museums focussed on digital collecting around events such as the Jubilee and Olympics. How can museums collect digital material on the topic of everyday life?
- How will the rapid movement and changing trends and developments in technology impact on the ways that museums collect digital material?
- If we choose to collect the digital forms of social media, how do we store them? How can we be certain that the decisions taken will be sustainable and manageable in 10 years, let alone 100 years’ time?
- In the future will individuals want museums to collect their social media archives? Will individuals donate their data to museums instead of, or alongside, material objects?
- There are a plethora of ethical issues and concerns. How does the plethora of ethical issues and concerns impact on collecting policies. How do these concerns affect the ways that museums display social media as a museum artefact?
Although none us had all the answers, it was a really interesting discussion that we want to take forward. We believe social media is an important part of our lives, so when, what and how should we be collecting it? We’re not sure, but we’re keen to continue the conversation.