Museums, particularly history museums, are known for wallowing in the past. It’s kind of our gig. And that’s okay, so far as it goes. The kicker is that what is happening now is history in the blink of an eye. If you think about that too closely, it’s almost overwhelming. Any given moment is instantaneously history. People may be immersed in the present, but the present doesn’t last.
What that means is that those of us working in museums can’t only concern ourselves with some distant, fuzzy past. We also have to be conscious of what’s going on with the near past and today so we can preserve the NOW with as much immediacy as possible. The longer we wait to save history, the harder it is to get the facts straight, to get the whole story, to capture the authentic voices of those who lived it.
One of the things we do at the Weyerhaeuser Museum to collect immediate history is to observe what is going on in Morrison County and post those observations on Twitter. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging service that allows users to say what’s happening in 140 characters or less. A post on Twitter is called a “tweet.”
We’ve been tweeting for almost a year now. (The time flies!) After using Twitter for a while, I came to the realization that it can serve the function of past Local Items columns in the old local newspapers we have on file at the Weyerhaeuser Museum. It’s rare that today’s newspapers offer snippets about ordinary people and minor community events. With Twitter, people can now post their own snippets of what’s happening in their daily lives and communities.
We have been using Twitter to mention our observations about local construction projects, weather, gas prices, business openings and closings, and the like since October 2009. We call these our “Today Is History” tweets.
With only three staff people observing and tweeting, it’s difficult for us to give a complete picture of all the stuff going on throughout Morrison County. What we really need are correspondents – local people using Twitter who are willing to post their observations about local happenings. We could then follow these local Twitterers and capture their local news tweets, which we would publish as an insert in our newsletter.
If there are locals out there willing to make the observations, but not tweet them, we’d be open to having them phone in (320-632-4007) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) their observations and we will post them to Twitter.
In order to follow particular topics more easily on Twitter, the service allows people to apply hashtags to their tweets. A hashtag is the number symbol (#) directly followed by the search term of choice. We are using the hashtag #tih for our Today Is History tweets.
You may follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/weymu.
If you want to sign up for a Twitter account, follow this link: http://twitter.com
If you do sign up for Twitter and want to be a Today Is History correspondent, let us know and we’ll follow you.
If you have no idea what Twitter is, but want to know more, sign up for the Twitter class we are hosting on March 13, 2010, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Weyerhaeuser Museum. I’ll be covering the how-to basics of the service. (Call 320-632-4007 to reserve a spot in the class. Cost: $10 per person.)