I've been resisting Twitter mightily -- my tolerance for information clutter is pretty low -- but this splendid Twitter-driven initiative just might induce me to take the plunge . . . .
Archivists at Cambridge University's Scott Polar Research Institute are using Twitter to draw attention to the diary that Captain Robert Falcon Scott kept during his ill-fated 1910-1912 Antarctic expedition: every day, they tweet the first 140 characters of the diary entry that Scott penned exactly 99 years before.
Each tweet also includes a link to a blog, Scott's Last Expedition, that provides the full text of the diary entry and archival images. The blog itself is pretty neat, too: the only dates that appear on it are those of the diary entries, and as a result the blog looks as if it were written by Scott himself. The entries thus have an immediacy and intimacy that they would lack if accompanied by scholarly commentary.
The Scott Polar Research Institute plans to launch similar Web 2.0 initiatives focusing on other British polar explorers. More information about the Scott project and the Institute's future plans is available here.
Scholars and archivists have long known that archival records tell compelling stories, but most people tend to think of records as being of interest to history buffs, civil servants, and a few other quiet oddballs. The Scott Polar Research Institute's project promises to present Scott's diary in a way that will grab and hold the attention of 21st-century people, and other repositories certainly hold materials that could be brought to life in the same way. I really want to see lots and lots of archives follow in the Institute's footsteps. I promise I'll follow all your projects on Twitter.