British Library Discovers Blogs…And Only a Decade Late

I woke up this morning to discover that the British Library and a collection of their National Trust partners had declared today a sort of national blog day.

In an attempt to capture the minutiae of ordinary life our nations bastions of learning have invited the normal everyday of people to toddle along to the History Matters website and post a diary of their oh so average lives.

Perhaps I’m alone in finding outreach work of this kind coming down from the lofty heights of such ivory towers more than a little bit patronising. It occurs to me that ordinary people have been sharing the details of everday life with each other for quite some time now, and archiving those thoughts as well.

Firstly it seems that in order to benefit from the BL’s generous offer to catalogue the lives of such mere mortals as ourselves, after so many years of neglect, the BL is asking us to go to their website and post our blog entry on their blo…this seems to miss one of the cardinal principles of blogging, that we as ordinary people have control of our words, how they are presented and stored and archived.

I also wonder at how representative a ‘day in the life’ of people who take part in this project will be. Is it possible that in a hundred years time the historians view of Tuesday 17th October will be coloured through the lens of a self selecting audience of Radio 4 listeners and amateur historians?  

Perhaps a more effective historical document could be compiled by historains actualy going out and documenting all of the REAL blog posts made today. Certainly this would be more representative (even if it was weighted towards IT nerds and SF geeks…)

I applaud blog day as a great piece of PR for the history movement and wish it every success, but hope that the dedicated historians behind the scenes manage to live up to the promise of documenting the lives of ordinary people in the digital age. Even the cynical and sarcastic ones…

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

4 thoughts on “British Library Discovers Blogs…And Only a Decade Late

  1. oooo damien … you cynical old thing … i didn’t think of it being patronising … i thought it would be like the old mass observation diaries kept during the war … but true it will be self selecting – altho from the ones i read a lot of them seemed to be from kids saying they had eaten coco pops for breakfast and i liked that …


  2. Surely you’re just thinking about 400 years from now when the evil superhuman/alien race of the speculative future open up all the aforesaid blogs and then deletes any 400 year on human not matching their profile. It could happen. Damn evil superhuman/alien race. We’ll be watching for you.



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