Anchorage Museum archiving memes, social media posts from earthquake
The 1964 earthquake was documented in newspaper headlines, letters and photographs shot on film. After the Nov. 30 quake, historians are using words and images from social media to document the disaster.
Aaron Leggett, a curator with the Anchorage Museum, said staff started collecting online items for their archive an hour after the quake hit.
"With such a significant event, we really wanted as public historians to speak that it would be important for us to document the earthquake in a lot of ways," Leggett said.
These ways include online posts, messages and memes, which Leggett said hit home for a lot of Alaskans.
"Memes were quite an important part of that history, because I think it captured a lot of the feelings," Leggett said. "It showed the sort of helpless feeling people had, but also I think that Alaskans sense of humor which is really important."
Some of the most popular memes were shared more than a thousand times. Many have been posted on the Facebook page Alaska MEMES.
"Social media is a place where everyone gets to be a storyteller, and after the earthquake every Alaskan had a story to share - an interesting, often humorous story that other Alaskans could instantly relate to," the people behind Alaska MEMES said over Facebook Messenger on Wednesday. "Also, levity can be an empowering vehicle of catharsis for those experiencing stressful circumstances over which they have no control... and of course, memes are very easy and fun to make :)"
The Alaska MEMES Facebook page posts a mixture of original and user-generated content. When asked how they choose which memes to post, this was their response:
"Historically, the page has been somewhat selective about posting submitted content, but after the earthquake we decided to be more generous in sharing the content that was submitted. It's fun for people to see their content in the social media 'limelight,' especially when it is well received.
We wanted to share that good feeling with as many people as possible. We shared well over 200 earthquake-themed memes following the event, with many more posted directly to the 'visitor posts' section of our page and in the comment threads of other posts. One post alone had more than 900 replies."
At the museum, Leggett said historians won't stop collecting the memes anytime soon, as new content is being created almost every day — all with the same theme.
"The take home message obviously, yes there is a lot of damage and peoples lives were severely impacted, but the fact that there were no fatalities is really something that is going to mark this earthquake in Alaska something that is very significant," Leggett said.
In addition to the memes, Leggett said the museum is also collecting poems written about the earthquake.
Cassie Schrim contributed reporting to this story.
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