How to Quickly Archive Tweets for Research

@MarsCuriosity: the feed I wanted to archive.

The other day, I decided to save the tweets from the entertaining Twitter feed of the Mars Curiosity rover (@MarsCuriosity) in case I needed it for my dissertation.  Saving the tweets became important to me because I remembered this post from MIT’s Technology Review blog which warns of history “vanishing” (at least the history recorded by Twitter) because of the fleeting nature of tweets.

Regardless of whether or not history can “vanish” due to the digital nature of tweets, I still didn’t want to leave it to chance that the @MarsCuriosity feed would still be there when I needed it. NASA, being a government agency, is also quite good at leaving paper trails of everything, but nonetheless I looked for a way to save the tweets for my own dissertation archive.  Along the way, I came across some information about the Library of Congress’s project to archive tweets, as well as methods for saving tweets from your own Twitter feed that I thought I’d share.

The Library of Congress Preserves Tweets

One of the things that I read about in my search is the Library of Congress’s project to preserve tweets. This project is part of an initiative for digital preservation, and in 2010 Twitter donated its collection of public tweets to the Library. I wasn’t able to find a way to save the tweets that I wanted through investigating the Library of Congress’s project, but at least I felt legitimated in my desire to archive tweets.  The collection is only going to be available in Washington, D.C. — and, they’re not yet available either, since we’re talking about thousands of terabytes of information. If you’re interested in reading more about the collection, this FAQ from the Library is a good place to start.

Saving Your Own Tweets

If it’s your own Twitter feed you’re wanting to preserve, it’s not too hard to archive your tweets, and searching on Google provided me with lots of different choices.  This article outlines ways of saving your own tweets to a database.  It looks a little complicated, but the article claims that it’s not as hard as it sounds.  If you have Evernote, the nifty application that lets you save just about everything, you can follow these instructions to have your tweets automatically saved to Evernote.  Here are a few more suggestions — you may want to save tweets from your own feed if you use Twitter for a class and want to save a copy of the feed off of Twitter’s servers.

Aha! Saving Tweets from Any Twitter Feed

Using All My Tweets ended up being my solution for saving the @MarsCuriosity feed.

Unfortunately the above solutions didn’t work for me, since I’m not the administrator of the feed that I want to save.  After googling around and reading several articles, I discovered that there’s no one solution to saving tweets.  I ended up using a method of my own, as it seemed easier than the methods I’d read about:

  1. Find the Twitter feed you want to save.  In my case, it’s @MarsCuriosity.
  2. Go to the site All My Tweets.  This site lets you enter in a Twitter username, and it will display all the tweets for that feed.
  3. Enter the Twitter username you’re interested in and click “Get Tweets.” The page will load all the tweets from that Twitter feed.
  4. Collect the tweets.  I clipped the webpage using Evernote, since I use it to collect dissertation research.  You could also save the webpage using your browser, save it as a PDF, or copy and paste it into a word processor.

I saved this screenshot along with the All My Tweets page so that I could preserve some of the “color” of the original @MarsCuriosity Twitter page.

This method isn’t perfect, but it worked for my purposes.  One of the things that it doesn’t do, is it doesn’t automatically collect tweets as they appear. To make up for this I’ll just go back at a later date and re-collect the feed if I need it.  Another downside to this method is that All My Tweets doesn’t show any of the details of a Twitter feed’s page (i.e. avatars, background images, etc.).  To make up for that, I saved a screen capture of the @MarsCuriosity Twitter feed.

Of course, now that I have my collection of @MarsCuriosity tweets for my dissertation, the question is — how do I cite them?  (Thankfully, it turns out that it’s way easier than archiving them is!)


About Kim Mann

Kim Mann is the editor and a writer for the Academic Technology Blog. She earned her BA in English from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and her MA in American Studies from William & Mary in 2009, and her PhD in American Studies at the College in 2014. Her research is on technology, the interface, and the body in mid-twentieth century science fiction.