YouTube is a repository for public memory. It’s about documenting what is in the zeitgeist now. It also provides a glimpse at what we remember about the past, too.
That’s the premise behind yttm.tv, a website that attempts to provide some historical order to the otherwise chaotic YouTube. It’s a sort of stream-of-consciousness archive of popular culture and current events in a given year. Visitors to the site can search videos by year dating all the way back to advent of motion pictures in the late nineteenth century. Videos can be filtered by categories such as current events, sports, video games, commercials, and television among others.
The impetus of the site is less historical than nostalgic. As the site’s creators explain as they recount yttm.tv’s origins, “…it wasn’t specifically Jordan or Primal Rage videos I was searching for … it was 1996 … the feeling of being in 1996 …the intangibles of that year fascinated me, but getting bogged down in the specifics and having to make CHOICES eventually spoiled my quest.”
In other words, it’s like those VH1 clip shows, but without the often silly commentary. Or better yet, with personal commentary provided by the viewer. Or in our case, the historian.
The selection of videos archived on this site for a given year may be less than representative – but it’s fascinating from the perspective of public memory. Just how do people choose to remember 1996 anyway? What does it look like as a shared cultural moment?
What other ways could yttm.tv be used as a historical tool?