To Instagram or Not Instagram? Using Instagram and Social Media to Build a Creative Community


Jennifer Poleon, Columbus Museum of Art, USA

How can art museums use social media and smartphones to engage and connect on a deeper level with visitors? Columbus Museum of Art’s answer: our ongoing CMA Photo Hunt project.

CMA Photo Hunts give participants an opportunity to flex their creativity; be inspired by works or themes in Columbus Museum of Art exhibitions or collections; respond to creative challenges with their own visual take using the popular photo sharing app Instagram; and have their photos displayed in the museum. Since our Photo Hunts began we have received more 5,000 submissions from hundreds of photographers from Seattle to Ohio to Paris to Russia, and presented three (soon to be four) CMA Photo Hunt exhibitions. In 2012, we were the first museum in the world to present a curated installation crowdsourced through Instagram.

In 2013 Columbus Museum of Art was awarded the Institute of Museum and Library Service National Medal for our many innovative programs that help foster creativity, and support the creative community. Our ongoing CMA Photo Hunt initiative is one of the unique ways we have translated the museum’s onsite engagement efforts to the virtual world, and back. The project is spearheaded through CMA’s digital efforts, and includes a multi-departmental collaborative team from Curatorial, Exhibition Design, Education, and Marketing.

In mid January 2014, we will unveil a fourth, curated, crowdsourced Photo Hunt exhibition inspired by CMA’s currently on view Matthew Brandt: Sticky/Dusty/Wet, the photographer’s first one-person museum exhibition.

Rather than inhibit the museum experience (as recent articles have suggested), smartphones and projects such as our Photo Hunts are changing the museum experience in a profound way. The Photo Hunts have provided an opportunity for people to express their creativity, fostered the growing mobile photography community, encouraged visitation of related exhibitions, and allowed a deeper level of engagement with the museu

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