Nora Caplan-Bricker of the New Yorker penned an article on March 11 highlighting the endeavors of historians at the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute to preserve the #MeToo movement’s online record. The library has been collecting millions of pertinent tweets and thousands of web articles, legislation, posted HR policies, and public apologies in order to create a comprehensive archive of the #MeToo movement’s online outgrowths. To do so, the library has utilized a variety of online tools, such as Media Cloud, Webrecorder, and Social Feed Manager, to scan online platforms, aggregate significant information, and generate spreadsheets. These efforts to collect primary sources of information stems from both a fear that this valuable data will eventually be inaccessible as well as a recognition that the #MeToo movement is momentous in the fabric of American history.
In cultivating such an extensive collection of online-based data, the Schlesinger Library is forging a new path in archival research that acknowledges the importance of social media patterns in understanding social and cultural undercurrents. One challenge that will arise as the Internet is utilized more often in research is that its content is ever changing and ephemeral; that is to say that the Internet we have access to today will differ from that of the future. While this will raise some issues for future archivists as they attempt to make sense of online resources and draw conclusions about the previous generation, it only further justifies the efforts of current archivists to capture and curate these materials. As the Schlesinger Library continues its aggregation of online data, it will likely be faced with a series of ethical questions regarding how user privacy factors into preserving the historical record. This will be an interesting issue to watch as it develops in the future.