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#ArchivesCute provides a glimpse of what a vintage Instagram might have looked like

Enjoy the cute pets, kids, and whimsy of history’s lighter side thanks to a host of libraries and archives.

U.S. National Archives
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

When we think of historical archives and photos from the past, most of us tend to envision stuffy documentary footage, stone-faced ancestors posing for family photos, or famous moments in history captured by journalists on the scene. We certainly don’t think of history as aligning with the way we view the world around us today — through cute Instagram-ready pictures of smiling people, fluffy pets, and whimsical moments.

That’s just the impression that a new hashtag, created by the National Archives and joined by a host of libraries around the world, is attempting to change. #ArchivesCute is exactly what it sounds like — a Twitter hashtag in which archival organizations and institutions share the cutest and most day-brightening content from their collections.

The hashtag is part of an attempt by the National Archives to engage with the social media scene through its monthly Archives Hashtag Party, in which participating institutions post photos and other documents around a specific theme, beginning on the first Friday of each month. The National Archives kicked off the initiative in August with the hashtag #ArchivesSquadGoals, which yielded fun group photos and ensemble moments from the past. September’s second theme is now #ArchivesCute, and October’s theme will be announced toward the end of the month.

#ArchivesCute is only meant to be a one-day thing, but it already seems as though there might just be too much cuteness to pack it all into one day:

One thing that immediately becomes clear from perusing the hashtag is that an incredibly wide variety of documents and images end up in archival collections, from presidential photos to vintage advertisements:

It’s also clear just how important dogs are to, well, history.

Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to parse “cute” from “actually scary,” as these well-meaning tweets reveal:

Maybe the blurry line between the two is a good teaser for what October’s theme will be.

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