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The question of the archive is not, we repeat, a question of the past

Derrida made it clear in his lecture and subsequent book, Archive Fever, that the question of the archive is a question about the future. Derrida refers to the archive as being a response, a promise and a responsibility for tomorrow. In a contemporary society, where the physicality of culture and civilisation has been twisted upside down by the creation and population of the virtual world, how can the future archive be understood? Technology such as computers and mobile phones allow people to simultaneously exist in the world of objects of books, art and performance, as well as in the world of bits and bytes of data, information and communication. Over the last 30 years it has been made clear that the traditional model of the archive does not work in the world of electronic records. The response has been to undertake significant research in the field of electronic preservation and curation. However, there is still a heavy conceptual burden which focuses on preservation of the artefact and retains the archivist as collector and preserver of cultural heritage. Digital technologies found in social software and user-generated websites provide tools and a space that enable users to contribute, manipulate, define, describe, organise, publish and store cultural forms. Online technologies and social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are tools and places being used by everyday people to record culture through their own eyes. These traces of recorded culture are full of complexity for the archive; they are private and public, ephemeral and enduring, all at the same time. Social media is a technology that can tell multiple stories for the future personal stories about a life, technological stories about software, cultural stories about what it means to exist online, stories about identity, stories about community a venerable multiverse of stories! The role of the archivist is to seek out and develop frameworks for understanding what this phenomenon means for Archival Science. In this paper I put forward the Cultural Heritage Continuum model, one of array of Continuum models developed by Australian archival theorist, Frank Upward, as a framework to explore the nature of online culture and in particular, social media. I will reference Twitter and the acquisition of the public Twitter feed by the Library of Congress and also introduce my own research into this area, looking at how I have used the model to explore Youtube videos. The challenge (and the responsibility) of the current-day archivist is to seek out and understand the multiple stories in the recorded culture of society, particularly those that are being used and re-used for personal and public storytelling. In pursuing this goal, the role of the archive as a place for artefacts and the role of the archivist as a passive collector, cannot be sustained. The archive as an institution which plays a part in the process of recording culture must be

realised. What role might this future archive have and how might it be envisioned in the discipline and practice of Archival Science?