Why and how I donated my Twitter archive to the Amsterdam City Archives

I sent my first tweet on February 13, 2009. I wanted to try out this new medium and see how it could be relevant to my studies in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. The community of people involved in archiving and presenting audiovisual archive material was small, and we managed to find each other well via Twitter. I used hashtags at conferences to share insights, see what others got out of it, and have conversations.

In December 2022 and 10,822 Tweets later, I pulled the plug on my Twitter account. But I didn’t want it to be lost forever. So I downloaded my Twitter archive and –following in my husband’s footsteps– donated my Twitter archive to the Amsterdam City Archives.

The homepage of my local Twitter archive

My Twitter profile: archive and heritage nerd (plus: a love story)

Besides studying and sharing knowledge, I also used Twitter to discover and share internet culture, art, and memes, and to share my bizarre thrift finds with people. When I started working at the Research & Development department at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Twitter became indispensable for me. I did countless international research projects, and Twitter was my main source for keeping up to date with developments in the heritage and culture sector.

I checked Twitter several times a day and used my Twitter lists to quickly see what was happening in topics such as web archiving and the alumni of my study, but I also tried to keep up with my whole feed. It was a lot of work, but I got so much information and inspiration from it.

Unlike many others, I hardly used the medium to express my opinion. Sometimes I did that about work-related matters, but that was it. I did use it to closely follow my husband-to-be after meeting him at a conference. When I saw on Twitter he would give a talk somewhere, or wanted to move to Amsterdam, where I already lived, I took the opportunity to reply with things like “that’s right around the corner from me” and “it’s nice to live near me.” After a year, I saw him standing at the station and greeted him with “I know you from Twitter!” We have been together for over 11 years at the time of writing and got married in October 2022.

The decline my Twitter activity

Slowly but surely, my feed became more and more filled with all kinds of opinions and negativity, and the information I was looking for faded into the background. And then Elon Musk took over Twitter. The chaos this caused and the ‘the-internet-should-really-be-free-except-when-people-criticise-me-and-btw-I-am-a-huge-douchebag’ ridiculousness that this brought were the final straw for me. It became impossible for me to continue using Twitter the way I wanted to.

On December 3, 2022, I downloaded my Twitter archive and deleted my account. By then, I had hardly been present on the platform for a while. I shared my last tweet – number 10,822 – on September 29, 2022, and in that year, I only sent eight tweets.

Where do I get my work-related information now? Mostly from newsletters and LinkedIn. Mastodon is still too sparsely populated, and many opinions are shared there too. I am curious about how the online landscape will develop in the coming years.

Donating my archive to the Amsterdam City Archives

Being an archivist at heart, I thought it would be a waste to just delete my Twitter account and let that be that. I had some personal experience. Almost 10 years ago, I did a Summer School in which we could use the Twitter Gardenhose API to analyse Tweets. I made a map based on geodata of all Tweets that mentioned Narnia, to find out if we could locate it, but alas, this map should have been archived by yours truly.

Anyway, it made me realise Twitter data can be fun and fascinating research data. Luckily, the Amsterdam City Archives started a pilot to archive Twitter accounts. My husband (the wonderful Hay Kranen) was quick on the draw and the first person to donate his Twitter archive. As for my Twitter archive, I followed the same steps Hay took to remove all privacy-sensitive material. I kept everything that was publicly visible and data that is not public but does not contain sensitive information. But I deleted files and folders such as direct messages, blocked accounts, deleted tweets, device tokens, and IP addresses.

To do this, I deleted the following files and folders:

  • All files that started with direct messages (DMs)
  • The folders direct_messages_group_media and direct_messages_media (media belonging to DMs)
  • account-creation-ip.js (contains IP address)
  • block.js (blocked accounts)
  • deleted-tweets.js and deleted-tweet-headers.js (deleted tweets)
  • device-token.js (possibly sensitive)
  • ip-audit.js (IP addresses)
  • mute.js (muted accounts)

This seems like a lot, but the archive still functions when you load the HTML page that is in the top level folder of your downloaded Twitter archive. The most important part of the archive that’s crucial to its integrity are the ‘tweets.js’ and the ‘tweets_media’ folders, which contain the actual tweets and media assets.

Then my archive was ready to donate! I made an appointment with the digital archivist who started the initiative, Mirjam Schaap. So this afternoon, off I went on my bike, to the Amsterdam City Archives. We had a chat, I signed a (very short and sensible!) donation agreement and transferred the archive from my laptop to the e-depot. And even though my husband donated before I did, at least I was a. the first woman and b. we were the first couple in the Twitter archive. I’ll take it!

Now, maybe 100 years from now, someone will sift through my Tweets and think: what a huge nerd. I would love to leave that legacy behind.


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April 2023

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