The “selfie” has (for better or worse!) become a defining feature of our culture. In 2014, Mar Dixon had the simple inspired idea to encourage anyone and everyone visiting museums to take a selfie with a simple engagement objective:
Objective: A day to share selfies either in museums or around museums. These can be on the day or ones from previous visits. This is a FUN DAY to encourage people to visit museums and participate a bit with art or collections.
All pictures are then shared throughout Social-Media-dom under the hashtag #museumselfie. I must admit that, until this year, this social phenomenon had completely passed me by, but a quick internet browse showed how vehemently it had been taken up. Hundreds of selfies are, as I write this, flooding the Twittersphere and inevitably debate is sparked about whether this should be encouraged. Gizmodo have titled Museum Selfie Day as “The Best Worst Thing of the Week“, but in my opinion, the benefits of this initiative can’t be faulted.
Because I spend half my life in museums, and because education and engagement in museums is one of Robyn’s passions, I’ve become increasingly aware of what people do and do not want to see and more importantly how they want to see it.
I believe at the core of it people want to be engaged with their history and heritage, but the glass cases and lengthy information boards have made this difficult, if not impossible, for many to appreciate in the past. And as a result museums and galleries quite often get a bad rap as dull ways to spend your day. However, there’s been a steady rise in interactive exhibits, with replicas, touch-technology, QR codes and 3D printing all starting to secure its presence in galleries and museums.
My local museum, the RAMM in Exeter, is a key example, having closed for several years to refurbish and restructure and quickly winning the Art Fund award in 2012 when it reopened. Now when people come and visit Exeter, this is one of the key places I tell them they must go and not once has anyone been disappointed.
In order for museums to sustain interest and to get people going back, they have to engage with novelties, such as Museum Selfie Days. It encourages people to think about the exhibits in a different way; visitors will inevitably look specifically for what they consider the most interesting artefacts and artwork to make the best photos and by consequence advertise what different museums have to offer. It also personalises the exhibits, making people feel a part of what they’re looking at, even if there is a glass barrier.
I’ve used this repeatedly as a way to engage friends and family who quite simply have little interest in looking at a Bronze Age object by itself. But if I pull a funny, serious or simply happy face in the background, it (hopefully!) gets people to think about what they’re seeing in the photo, beyond my wonderful face!
One could try and pick apart the downsides to this social spectacle, but let’s be honest, how often are museums trending on Twitter?! I, for one, will continue to take selfies wearing silly hats, marvelling at objects, and posing with taxidermy – it can only do good for the popularity of the institutions that are so vital for sustaining our world heritage.
Happy #Museumselfie Day 2016! Enjoy this collage of every museum selfie I’ve taken since last June!
Many of my selfies are taken behind the scenes at the very permission of the various museums I visit so a big thank you to all who allow me to do so!