The @Atlantic uses Twitter to revisit its archive

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

News organizations are using Twitter to rediscover their vast archives and share them with the world. A recent example comes from @TheAtlantic, which recently used Twitter for a look back at its prodigious output.

@TheAtlantic editorial team held an archives party at which the staff went through scores of past issues of the magazine and shared the entire experience with their Twitter followers using the hashtag #AtlanticArchives.

Staff writer Megan Garber says the event was born out of the huge breadth of material the team had access to. “We have 156 years’ worth of articles and ads and assorted awesomenesses in that archive — among them pieces from Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Edith Wharton, which is a rare and wonderful thing. And while we have a database that indexes the editorial content, we loved the idea of seeing the magazine as a contemporary reader would have: in print, full of ads and unique fonts and (in the later years) color.”

We could turn our past into a conversation with our readers — in the present.

Garber says that sharing the experience on Twitter was a way to expose and extend their vault of archival work to a broader audience. “With #AtlanticArchives, we were able both to share some of our best archival finds, and also to see people reacting to those finds. We could turn our past into a conversation with our readers — in the present.”

Of course, the archive was a treasure trove. A Tweet highlighting a piece by author Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most popular. Says Atlantic social media editor Chris Heller: “The Vonnegut byline is a weird, delightful artifact of his early career: ‘He is now working for General Electric in Schenectady and writing a novel in his spare time’ is just fantastic.”

Other offerings included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” from 1963 — Heller says this is “one of the most important essays The Atlantic ever published” — and a 1924 advert for The Great Gatsby:

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