Museum selfie

January 21, 2015; CNN and BetaBoston

How can museums become more interactive and encourage bending and posturing and posing? Voilà! Welcome to #MuseumSelfieDay. On January 21st, people were encouraged to go to a museum and interact with art. Twitter and Instagram were the platforms of choice for sharing pictures. Some of the pictures were taken by museum staff to promote exhibits, with a few memes standing out:

  • Mar Dixon, a self-described advocate for museums, culture and art as well as a UK mom who “tweets a lot” (at @MarDixon), said, “The hashtag is about the museum, but it’s really about the people who are going to the museum. You took that picture and you will remember that picture.” Her hope was to promote interest in and awareness of the great collections of art in both regional and national museums. She’s neither an artist nor does she have a background in art; according to her blog, the number one question that people ask is, “Why do I do it?” Her response: Because a majority…enjoy it.” On #MuseumSelfieDay, she posted, “Just enjoy it or mute it but don’t complain, it’s one day.”
  • The chief digital officer of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC tracked the stats for the day: 270,000 tweets and 13,000 contributors. The director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, Malcolm Rogers, contributed a selfie, as did Sylvester Stallone, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • At the Museum of Science in Boston, a staff member said, “Studies are showing us that people are coming for a social experience.” Coming next? A digital treasure map to be developed to help visitors find the exhibits that are most personally appealing.



Last fall, the Boston Museum of Fine Art promoted a new exhibit via Instagram, inviting “high profile Instagrammers” to an exhibit two hours before the exhibit officially opened.

The relationship between selfies and museums did reach a new tipping point after the most recent Christmas. One of the best-selling gifts of Christmas 2014, the selfie stick, is not allowed in most museums. Bring your smartphone or your camera, but camera-extension devices are not allowed. The sticks raise concerns of potential accidental damage to the artwork or other visitors.—Jeanne Allen