January 20th is Museum Selfie Day! The social media movement started in 2014 and has only gained momentum since. Museums worldwide have taken advantage of the opportunity to get visitors in their doors that might not otherwise have ventured into their institution; sometimes causing long lines to form in order to take selfies with popular museum pieces. And while some museums employ a strict “no photography” policy, some museums are trying to embrace the trend of “if you didn’t take a photo, it didn’t happen” and help expand their audience at the same time. Beyonce and Jay-Z even got in on the museum selfie trend!
And according to NY Magazine, this is the quintessential Museum Selfie list:
“1. Making kissy-faces at babely statues.
- Engaging in playful stare-offs with statues, especially those of judge-y forefathers.
- The mocking surprise-delight face: mouth open, chin tilted down, in front of a painting.
- The modest comparison selfie:Look! My facial features are similar to this person who was deemed gorgeous enough to document for the ages, and then proceeded to stand the test of time.
- Standing in front of a sculpture or painting of a snarling animal and re-creating the snarl.
- Inserting one’s body behind a bust or a taxidermied animal head to give it the body it so clearly desires.
- A smiley, cute selfie. Just a regular, standard selfie, but at a museum. You’re so pretty.
- Antique-mirror selfie, in front of an old-timey mirror in the old-timey furniture wing. Those mirrors still work after all these years. Amazing.
- Modern mirror, in front of a strange, reflective piece of contemporary art. Where are you? Oh, there you are!
- Actin’ haughty. Yeah, Madame X does look like she thinks she’s the business.
- Interacting with the scene. If an old lady in a Dutch masters painting is pointing in an accusatory way, it is kinda funny to stand on the other end of her outstretched finger and look guilty.
- Acting shocked at a nude or a sex scene. Art: so subversive.
- Taking pictures of artist’s self-portraits. Look, Edward Hopper and Rembrandt both painted themselves! SELFIES ARE OLD AS TIME.
- Selfie with other people taking museum selfies in the background. There is nothing that a proud museumgoer loves more than things that are meta.
- Photoshopping a camera into the hands ofMona Lisaor The Girl With the Pearl Earring. We get it!
And the four types of most common, incorrect museum selfies tagged with #MuseumSelfie:
- Museum-bathroom selfies.
- Selfies in the woods.
- No context, just a face in front of a blank wall. It is possible that this person is art, but again, no context.
- Aquarium selfies — though it is impressive that this person appears to be about to kiss that fish.” (taken directly from Maggie Lane’s “The 19 Types of Selfies at Museum Selfie Day” http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/01/19-types-of-selfies-at-museum-selfie-day.html)
And while due respect needs to be given and taken into consideration when visiting any museum or cultural institution, the museum selfie trend has helped make art and history more accessible and relatable to the masses, especially younger generations. It allows a certain “manipulation” of a piece by allowing a person to feel like they are a part of a painting or artifact and lends a certain connection that otherwise is not made.
So in honor of Museum Selfie Day, the History Museum of Western Virginia will offer free admission on January 20th so that people may come and participate by taking a selfie with their favorite piece in our museum! We sincerely hope that people enjoy this opportunity and that it becomes a yearly trend.