Week 5: Art Snapchats

In “The Museum Interface,” Hromrack and Giampietro talk about facilitating “meaningful interactions with art that might occur in the gallery, via Web-based applications or in new hybrid spaces that merge the real and the virtual.” But how can curators control for these interactions to be meaningful, educational, and appropriate when technology has allowed for more freedom in digital engagement? Museums have utilized Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and online blogging platforms among many other digital tools to further expand and connect with both the local and global audience. And while the number of likes, followers, comments, and retweets can be quantified and measured, it does not necessarily translate to meaningful interactions as Orit Gat points out in his article.

A case in point is the way museum visitors use Snapchat to interact with the art. Due to the short lifespan of the captured photo, people behave and interact differently as opposed to careful posing, filters, and comments in Instagram. To catch the Snapchat users’ attention, funny, witty, or even inappropriate comments are added to the photo, which not only affects the way the art is encountered and experienced by those viewers but also leads to blatant disregard of the artist’s work and the curator’s intended experience. Buzzfeed has a couple articles dedicated to some of the saved Snapchats out there in the virtual world showcasing the ways users have interacted with art. In a way, these snapshots have become a form of art in itself since they are forms of expressions and interpretations of the users. But it poses a challenge for museums to balance their role as the caretaker of the collections while also enabling scholarship and digital engagement with the public. Giampietro says, “The new hyper-visibility is difficult because it can transform a unique installation into commodified image; the work’s lasting political power could easily be mistaken for a fleeting trend.” And these Snapchats of art pieces, although very funny, have completely removed the objects from their resonance, ignoring any means of meaningful interaction. Perhaps this is one of many reasons why museums have prohibited pictures in the gallery.

picture from Buzzfeed
picture from Buzzfeed










*Some more links to the Buzzfeed page:



5 thoughts on “Week 5: Art Snapchats”

  1. As the “art child” of the friend group, my friends never fail to send me snapchats like those shown in your blog. In the article I read from Giridharada, Giridharada poses a similar question that you have on how museums maintain a sense of scholarship while keeping the content open for accessibility. I agree with you, that although the snaps can be humorous, we don’t focus on the quality of the piece or the culture encapsulated in the art form and are focused on the humor appropriated from it.

  2. Unfortunately classic art appreciation seems to be dying out with this generation. People don’t want to look anymore and seems to be more interested in their social connection. As long as they can tag the museum’s location on their Facebook they count it as having ‘been there’ even if they have only seen 10% of the artwork.

  3. This makes me think of our “Intention” keyword: it’s one example among many of curators’ intentions coming into conflict with what audiences actually want to do in museums! I wonder, actually, whether we’d find many, many examples of this tension if we delved into the history of museums. Perhaps digital technology has not created this tension — but I think you can definitely argue that it’s sharpened it!

  4. This is such an interesting point. While I do agree that it is possible for platforms such as Snapchat to remove an object from its ability to resonate with the public, it also broadens the audience. I have a friend who lives in New York currently, and although she posts a lot of these ‘funny’ Snapchats while she visits a museum, she is still showcasing the work. I am still able to see exhibits that I normally would not have looked into because she is doing this.

  5. I think it’s really interesting to look at Snapchat as a vehicle for virtual museum engagement, because there are two main purposes for going digital (increasing accessibility and archiving objects), and Snapchat does a really good job of tackling the first, and a really bad job of tackling the second. It increases the accessibility of objects by displaying them on a platform with millions of users, but since the snaps themselves are so ephemeral (often lasting for shorter periods of time than one would spend viewing an actual object), they serve the opposite purpose of archiving or preservation

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