Going Viral with #MuseumSelfie

Wow – what an amazing day #MuseumSelfie was! 

ctI’ve been running @culturethemes now for almost 3 years (we’re 3 in March).  [A little background on CultureThemes: it was started when there were massive cuts to funding which caused a lot of negativity on social media.  This was not helping the sector at all.]  The first CultureTheme was #WhyILoveMuseums and went world trending.

Why?  Because people love museums!  What they don’t like is listening to moaning about funds/money.  Who does?

culturethemsEvery month for the past 3 years, I’ve come up with different themes. Some goofy (#MusSocks, #MusCake), some more meaningful (#MusMovember, #MusVolunteers) – but always FUN!

When I was thinking of what to do for January’s theme, I caught many conversations on Twitter and in the media about Selfies being ‘so 2013’.  There were a few other conversations related to selfies at the same time which sparked the eureka moment for #MuseumSelfie.

Per usual, I updated CultureThemes website, updated the Twitter profile and went about sharing across the social media channels. This is the same routine every month.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 07.17.36But this theme started to cause ripples early on.  Most themes get the momentum a week before but this was already buzzing 3 weeks before!  Qatar and Russia’s 1st Historical Museum starting promoting the event almost as soon as it was announced and even offered guidance to their visitors/followers on how to take part.

It had an @AskaCurator feel about it so I knew to prepare for a busy day. I was NOT expecting the level of participation.  With AskACurator day, I always know it’s going to be busy for 36 hours.

Australia and New Zealand are always very supportive of Culturethemes and it was no different this month.  I went to sleep at midnight after watching the hashtag grow and grow (huge shout out to Amy Dale for personally seeing the tag off in fashion in Australia!) .

When I woke up at 6am I was overwhelmed … and speechless.  I’m not a stats or number person.  I don’t analyze things- for me, it works or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t and the answer is obvious, change it.  If it’s not obvious, throw a rock in the pond and see where the ripples lead you. But don’t force an answer that could be as simple as ‘because’.

However, by 7am I was being asked for numbers (you museum people and your stats!).  I tried to capture what I was being told from a few sites:

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 09.22.54#MuseumSelfie 07.10am GMT
352 Photos
3413 Tweets
2045 Contributors

Soon after the UK press started to get involved.  The Telegraph and Guardian Culture Professional Network were the first ones.

There were also loads of big nationals who put their weight behind #MuseumSelfie which caused more participants to get involved.  I was interviewed numerous times and quoted from my website so many times I lost track.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 12.48.19In 14 hours, the stats rose to:
#MuseumSelfie 21:00 Stats:
3372 Photos
6 Videos
19586 Tweets
9381 Contributors

Why did it work?

I’m not Yoda and I’ve already said I don’t analyze things.  My opinion on why this particular hashtag worked is because it’s very similar to AskACurator – extremely participatory to the masses.  This was open to anyone and everyone.

To ensure momentum, I always try to reply to everyone that Tweets me. I don’t always succeed but I do try to at least acknowledge tweets.  While I clearly couldn’t respond to everyone, I did my best to ensure those taking the time to tweet knew someone appreciated the effort.

Additionally, I RT’d from my account and CultureThemes to spur creativity and share some of the brilliant #MuseumSelfie tweets being tweeted.  I concentrated on the users who were tweeting from personal accounts because I wanted them to feel special.

Morphing of the Meaning of the Day

The objective of #MuseumSelfie was simple:  share a selfie you took with art/objects.  I never said it had to be taken on the day but somehow the message was being skewed that people should visit a museum on the day to take part.  If that caused a few museums to get some extra foot flow, brilliant!  But I can’t take credit for that.


nozoneI’ve been dealing with CultureThemes long enough to know that anything that is slightly popular will bring a band of people who feel they need to voice this opinion on why it’s a horrible idea.  I don’t take things personally nor do I usually pay attention.

However, before the event even started there were a few tweets saying they were going to avoid museums on #MuseumSelfie day and/or alluded that MuseumSelfie day was bringing museums/art galleries down (see: Stop Taking Selfies in Front of Works of Art!).  I did not address this at the time and nor will I spend much time on it now.  What I do want to say is this:

It is pompous, arrogant statements such as those that make ‘average Joe/Jane’ to stay away from museums.  You’re not doing yourself or the sector any favors by assuming an elitist attitude.


I feel I should mention the trolls that will attach themselves to the event.  One person decided to create an account with the same name. This looks for Instagram photos with the #museumselfie hashtag and spams twitter with it.  I’ve asked for them to rename the account but they refused.  They said they saw the success of the event on the day, saw the username was free and went with it.   I will ensure everyone is aware they are not associated with us next year.

Moral:  Manners and etiquette aren’t in Trolls vocabulary. 

Political Movement

Some people decided MuseumSelfie was the day to challenge museums on their no photography policy.  Maybe it was the perfect day to discuss things but probably would have been better handled without the naming and shaming angle (but that is my personal opinion).  I get just, and if not more, frustrated than the next person when I’m not allowed to take photos.  However, when I’m provided a valid reason, it lessens the blow.  For example, it frustrates me that John Soane Museum doesn’t allow photography but then I understand and respect their reason.


I used both Eventifier and Sharypic to capture data.  Both have agreed to share their findings. (If you take them up on the offer, all I ask is you give proper credit.)

statsAt the end of January 22 (23:00):
9 Videos
21566 Tweets
10,238 Contributors
Sharypic 5168 photos

Stats Jan 23 09:30GMT
5,591 Photos
9 Videos
23,778 Tweets
11,143 Contributors
Sharypic Photos 5,818

And the tag continues to grow.


Q:  Will #MuseumSelfie be repeated?
A:  YES!  Mark your calendars for January 21st 2015 for the next MuseumSelfie day!

qsQ:  Why a Wednesday & not a weekend?
A:  CultureThemes is always on a Wednesday as we found it worked best with the majority. Plus, hump day can always use a helping hand. 🙂

Q: Who funds your hashtags?
A:  No one.  I do this because I can and care about the sector.  Although if anyone would like to fund me, please let me know! 🙂

Q: What is planned for next month?
A: CultureThemes will be running #MuseumVideos next month: YouTube, Vines, Instagram or other videos can be shared!


Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part and got involved. It was wonderful to see how many people actually love visiting and engaging with objects in museums.

Thank you to the museums and participants who embraced  #MuseumSelfie!


If you would like your link to be shared, please just let me know.

Museum Selfie day – in pictures Guardian Blog
MuseumSelfie takes Twitter by storm as galleries create global self …
The 19 Types of Selfies at Museum Selfie Day New York Magazine
#MuseumSelfie day @ROMtoronto | Royal Ontario Museum
Happy Museum Selfie Day! | In the Air: Art News & Gossip 
Museum Selfie day: your pictures – Telegraph
Can you pull a museum selfie? – BBC
Photos: Museum Selfie Day | Cincinnati.com | cincinnati.com
Instagram photos for tag #museumselfie | Statigram
A closer look: #MuseumSelfie Day – Blogs – The Buffalo News
Yesterday was #MuseumSelfie Day: A recap in photos – Time Out
It’s Museum Selfie Day! Go Ahead, Snap Yourself | AirSpace
Museum Selfie Day | Complex
It’s #museumselfie day! – Art History News – by Bendor Grosvenor
We want your pictures! Museum Selfie day reaches Exeter | Exeter …
Museum Selfie Day – Tulsa Historical Society
Man gets ‘pervy’ in Dublin gallery to celebrate #MuseumSelfie day …
No Selfie-Control: The Best of International #MuseumSelfie Day
Museum Selfie Day—Imitating Artifacts Is Funny » The Epoch Times
It’s #museumselfie day today! Alma Thomas with her work at…
Museum Selfie Day on Wed | Qatar Living
Museum Selfie Day
Les Inrocks – “Museum Selfie Day” : le selfie s’invite au musée
#MuseumSelfie – Deutsches Currywurst Museum Berlin (English)
#Museumselfie : Kulturkonsorten
25 Hilarious Photos of Art Fanatics on #MuseumSelfie Day
It’s Museum Selfie Day! Go Ahead, Snap Yourself blog.nasm.si.edu
День музейных селфи: портреты на фоне портретовКирилл Серебрянников поставит в «Гоголь-центре» спектакль про религию в школах — сообщает РИА «Новости». vozduh.afisha.ru
lyndakelly61: Did you know #selfie was coined by an Aussie? Check out #Muse t.co

# MuseumSelfie Day at IWM
#Ontario #MuseumSelfie
2014.01.22 #MuseumSelfieDay: Pinacoteca Agnelli’s selection
Ottawa’s rich #museumselfie collection
#MuseumSelfie day @ROMtoronto
A day of Museum Selfie’s Royal Museums Greenwich
January’s (2014) Best Tweets – Part Four
WA Museum – Western Australian
#MuseumSelfie Day Met Museum
SAM Does #MuseumSelfies Springfield Art Museum
#Museum Selfie Day at The Cincinnati Art Museum


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