A really popular thing among my friends on Instagram is to take pictures of newspaper and tabloid bills, especially if they’re funny or insane (which they usually are). This morning it was probably around 5 or 6 pics in a row in my feed of different magazine covers. It struck me that what is going on here is collective digital archiving. If I was a researcher from the future, I would think these images quite valuable, not only because you can find every front page the way you do when going to a physical archive, looking through micro films, but also in the way you can see why they are chosen and what they say about a given time and space historically. These type of micro themes are potential goldmines from a myriad of perspectives and approaches, but might also be a great way for archives (such as The Royal Library who collects one copy of every single issue) to precisely crowdsource digital archiving when money is an issue (which it always is).
In a publication on the digital archive (which hopefully comes out in a few weeks), I contribute with a text on exactly this notion. I argue for the value of these types of (sometimes ephemeral) archives that are constantly created online, sometimes out of need (like Know Your Meme) or originally not intended as such, but then become valuable sources of information (like the before and after pictures on Google Street View after the tsunami in Japan). Some digital archives are almost like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter, they pop up whenever there is a need for them, but they also have to be found and organised by those who see their value and can make sense of the data.
For memory institutions, this should be of great importance for a number of social and cultural reasons. Collect them, they’re right there.
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