Pinterest and Museums


I’ve been involved in a lot of discussion about Pinterest and art recently. Mostly revolving around whether or not it can be used as a legitimate scholarly tool. Bookmarking, organizing data etc… I tend to come down on the side of no. For me Pinterest is purely an aesthetic time-waster. I rarely click through pins to the original source, and I see tons of mislabeled and dead end pins that go nowhere. For me personally, there are better bookmarking and organizational open source options out there to help me with academic work.

But the other day at my job*, I was asked to look into how museums are using Pinterest. We recently discovered that Pinterest is the 4th most popular social media platform driving traffic to our main website, without the museum actually running a Pinterest account. The popularity of sharing collection images on Pinterest has led the marketing department to think about how we could use it to generate more interest in the museum/our collections. While I follow a lot of museums on Pinterest I’ve never really thought about how institutions use the platform as a branding tool.

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The most popular museum on Pinterest, seems to be the J. Paul Getty Museum with over one million followers. The Getty pins exclusively from their collection, organizing boards by theme. Their tagline is “In which we consider the many stories of art. Join us.” And their boards did make me think of the way we thematically construct narratives in art. The board Creatures Great and Small features works with pets. From medieval manuscript to 20th century photographs, pets are kind of constant. Auld Lang Syne: Virtuous Intentions for the New Year is another great theme board. Organizing by theme connects works of art you wouldn’t necessarily think to group together.

I like the strategy of presenting art by clever themes, and eschewing the standard date, materials, or country organizational strategy. Another fantastic board is Insta Getty, which pins visitors instagram pics. I think the Getty does a great job of living up to “consider[ing] the many stories of art” both by playing with narrative via their collection and encouraging visitors to share their experiences.

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Another popular museum is The Metropolitan Museum of Art with over 500,00 followers. The MET has some thematic boards, but focuses much more on promoting web series and current exhibitions. This seems like a better strategy for garnering interest in actually visiting the museum, and driving traffic to the main site. The board for the web series 82nd & Fifth makes good use of captions to encourage people who click through and view the curators videos. Pinterest does have a video posting feature which would work really well for this type of web project and probably generate a lot more views.

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The Diefenbunker Museum has great examples of how to use Pinterest to promote a museum as an institution and part of the general community. The Diefenbunker has community boards for News clippings, Event rentals, Education and Programs, and general boards relating to the museum and it’s collections. For a smaller museum trying to use social media to reach and engage a wider audience, I think this is a great model to follow.

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There are other museums out there using Pinterest as more of a scholarly resource. My old alma mater The Fashion Institute of Technology, is using their museum Pinterest account as a type of academic resource.  Really, there doesn’t seem to be any particular trend among museums on how to best use Pinterest. It’s one of those things that people are just beginning to realize the value of. For museums especially, Pinterest is a wonderful visual tool, whether it be to share your collection or promote events and exhibitions. People react well to large visuals, and I think in the very near future we’ll be seeing a lot more institutions embrace Pinterest as a standard social media outlet.

*Though there’s probably nothing wrong with sharing the name of the institution I work for, one can never be too careful.


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