VALA2022 Online Session 6 Hegarty

Unlocking social media archives: creative responses to the challenge of access


Tuesday 14 June 2022, 12:30 – 13:00

Kieran Hegarty
  • PhD candidate (Global, Urban and Social Studies)
  • RMIT University

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Read the paper here:


Collecting institutions, particularly libraries, are increasingly seeking to incorporate social media content into their collections. However, platform APIs used to gather social media data bind libraries to a license agreement that governs the collection, distribution, and use of these data. These agreements, along with ethical and technical challenges, mean traditional pathways to access need to be reimagined. This paper presents the implications of this changing information environment for libraries, and how the State Library of New South Wales has used novel approaches—including data visualisation and curation—to advance responsible, sustainable, and engaging access to these increasingly important cultural artefacts.


Kieran Hegarty is a librarian and sociologist. He is a currently a PhD candidate at RMIT University and works on the ARC Linkage project ‘Representing Multicultural Australia in National and State Libraries’, run in partnership with the National Library of Australia (NLA) and three state libraries (New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria). Kieran’s PhD research considers how the web has changed how national and state libraries build collections and how they are put to use. He is particularly interested in how automation and third-party applications used in web archiving and social media collecting are changing the nature of curation and documentary heritage. Through extended periods of fieldwork at the NLA and the State Library of New South Wales, Kieran is exploring the day-to-day production of two collections: the national Australian Web Archive and the New South Wales Social Media Archive. Kieran is passionate about taking experimental, creative, and collaborative approaches to research. Following his PhD, he hopes to continue his work in libraries, creative arts institutions, and sites of research, supporting ways to understand and challenge the power structures that shape how knowledge is created, disseminated, and authorised. You can find out more about Kieran’s research at his website ( or on Twitter @assemblingweb.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License