In the wake of the emotionally trying election, I do not have any interest in writing a politically charged opinion piece. I am keeping this post to the relevant subject matter for this blog: museums and social media. In class we have briefly discussed the question of – what happens to someone’s social media accounts when they are no longer there? A grim subject, but something that is just as relevant to consider today as making sure someone has access to your bank information. This post will not be that dark, because I am not talking about social media accounts when someone passes. I am talking about what will happen to President Obama’s social media accounts when he is no longer President of the United States?
There has been much to consider in the aftermath of Donald Trump being elected to be the next President, one thing that I never considered is what will happen to all of the social media accounts that Obama and the White House have been so active on for the last 8 years? This article from Smithsonian Magazine brought this question to my attention. At first thought, I would assume the @POTUS handle would be transferred to Trump because he will be the POTUS, but there is more consideration put into this decision. Aside from Trump’s track record on Twitter, which is something to consider in and of its self, Obama was the first president using social media to this extent.
Mashable points out that Obama was truly a “social media” president. Holding office for 8 years, he has been in office as social media was developing and welcomed it with open arms. Utilizing Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Vimeo, MySpace and Instagram (I laughed when I read MySpace – really?!) he was all over the map, in addition to all of the other accounts that are held by the White House. This amount of data and content in text, image, video, form cannot just be left out in the Internet abyss.
The White House Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief Digital Officer wrote a blog past detailing exactly how these social media accounts and other forms of online content are being saved and transitioned. A brief highlight of how some of theses transitions will go:
– Twitter content will be migrated from @POTUS to @POTUS44, and the original timeline will be wiped clean
– Facebook and Instagram White House posts will be migrated to @ObamaWhiteHouse and wiped clean as well
The National Archive and Records Association will save all of this content that is wiped clean – as if they were any other type of document coming from the presidency. This is a trend that is happening more and more in museums when it comes to acquiring objects. The Metropolitan Museum of Art just acquired 176 “original” emoji to their collection. More museums are collecting and maintaining digital collections, and there are more questions arising as to how does an institution “conserve” these objects? And how are they displayed? I personally hope that the Met prints out the emojis and make them wall paper for an exhibit, but that’s just me.
The White House is committed to providing open and public access to these archives and all of the past content. They do not know however, how to exactly provide this access. I appreciate their call for help, and if you happen to have a great idea concerning how to archive, share, and utilize this social media data, you can submit it here.
Image credit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/