Library of Congress' hidden Twitter computer room: WalletPop takes a peek

The Library of Congress recently made headlines by announcing an unusual acquisition: every public tweet ever sent on Twitter. Cleverly, it made the announcement by Twitter -- and the interest brought the library's servers to a standstill. For all that, the IT guys in charge of keeping every tweet for
posterity don't tweet at all.

Why would the Library be interested in obtaining something like that? And where are they going to put those tweets? I was given an exclusive invitation to come to Washington, DC, to find out.

In the humming computer stacks in the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library, preserving digital media is an ongoing challenge. Everything that's chosen for preservation, and there's a lot beyond Twitter messages, must be backed up, and as the storage media ages and evolves, must be put on the latest storage devices to ensure it can be read by the next generation of users.

The Library of Congress is your library. Like Twitter, it's free to use. So there's an advantage to keeping those throwaway bits of minutia clogging the Web.

If you're an anthropologist, you don't see a tweet as useless at all. Years from now, they will illuminate everyday life in a way we never have been able to do for previous generations.

Just like at home, computers can go down. At the Library of Congress, IT technicians sometimes find themselves in futile arguments with impassive computers. On one keyboard in the storage area, the IT guys jokingly leave spare change in the hopes that they'll appease the computer gods -- in this case, one of the processor towers is nicknamed Minerva, after a landmark mural in the Great Hall of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building.

We're in the Library of Congress now, too: WalletPop is on Twitter as @walletpopper, and I'm there as @bastable.

Follow WalletPop's Jason Cochran on Facebook.
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