Art Right to Your Inbox with #SendMeSFMOMA

Julia Kennedy -

Marketing & Aud Dev Associate

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With so much of our lives firmly entrenched around the digital, museums not only have to worry about how to bring people into the museum, but how to connect with a constant online audience.

What’s amazing is watching how new tech allows museums to interact and share their collections in stunning and innovative ways.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA, recently launched an initiative to bring their collection straight to your inbox. All you have to do is text the museum, and you’ll get a picture message back.

SFMOMA explains in their blog post about the initiative, that the idea came to fruition as a way to share the collection, most of which isn’t on display, with as many people as possible.

Why is this important?

Besides being just plain cool, the initiative serves a deeper purpose that almost every museum has within their mission statement; bringing their museum’s content to as many people as possible.

When tech began to break into museums, it was mainly found in exhibitions and implemented mirroring the 19th century cry in the art world, or “tech for tech’s sake.” And while it does make many museum exhibitions more immersive, when it’s used purposefully, it has deeply expanded access to museums and their collections to a wider variety of people.

When we talk about access in museums, we often get stuck in categories instead of considering the broad picture. Discussions can focus on physical barriers or learning disabilities, but in reality, access is a broad term that means making your programming and collection as easy to interact with as possible – full stop. That includes all people – full stop.

Falling into the same line of thinking of “tech for tech’s sake,” many museums think of access as accommodations made to increase their appeal to on-site visitors, but with new advances, “visitors” don’t have to actually be in your museum.

Programs like SFMOMA’s are a step above due to their simplicity, taking something that most people have like a cell phone or a messaging service, and turning it into a new way to communicate with their audience.

How did it do?
In the four day beta run more that 12,000 text requests for artwork were received and over 3,000 different pieces in the collection were shared, more than are even on display at the Museum.

What we have seen, and hope to continue to see, are thousands of people connecting with artwork in fun, new, and very personal ways. When you say “Send me a landscape” you won’t get 791 landscapes, you’ll get a landscape chosen just for you. You may one day be able to visit your landscape in SFMOMA’s galleries, or you may be the only person to see it for years to come.
– Jay Mollica, SFMOMA’s creative technologist

We shared the HyperAllergic article about the initiative and asked our Facebook fans to share with us their screen shots they received:

Photos by Justina Martino, Shannon Foley, and Deanna Waddell Dilbeck

Want to explore the collection for yourself? Here’s how to do it:

  • Text 572-51
  • Type “Send Me” and add a keyword or emoji

Looking for new ways to engage your audience online or on site? Check out what our Audience Development team can do for you.

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