By: Sierra Petro
You may already think your Insta-worthy selfies are #artsy, but Kenta Bloom, an art history major and museum studies minor, may be adding some more legitimacy to that hashtag with his senior project on selfie museums. Bloom has his questions ready for his research paper on whether or not selfie museums are, indeed, art museums.
What is a selfie museum?
They’re a relatively new phenomenon, which started popping up in the last 10 years or so. The general idea is that people go to them to take photos in these colorful, great environments. Some examples are the Museum of Ice Cream, Color Factory, and Candytopia.
How does this topic coincide with your fields of study?
Museum studies is a new minor, which just started this year. I’m still figuring out how it fits in. There’s a lot of people who want to separate selfie museums from “traditional” museums, so I’d like to question why selfie museums call themselves museums. You can call so many different things museums, so I could also get into the question: What is a museum?
What’s your stance on that?
I’m leaning towards the idea that they could be real museums.
Are you also questioning whether or not what selfie museums are displaying is art?
I’d like to focus on what the art is in these places, since the installations, backdrops, and environments in these museums aren’t necessarily complete as art pieces until there’s someone taking a photo of themselves and posting it. You could say other people’s Insta feeds are a part of the museum’s exhibition.
How did your professors feel about this topic? I’m guessing it wasn’t a unit in your classes.
I went to my art history professor, Jonah Westerman, who I knew would be a little skeptical or find it silly. His background is in philosophy, and he was actually really helpful in helping me form those initial questions.
What is your plan for conducting research?
There’s almost no academic research done on selfie museums. There is, however, a fair amount of media writing and journalism on them, so there’s a lot to be learned from that. Any arts-involved institution has a lot of people working for it since there’s a lot of people who have to come together to make things happen. I’m planning on interviewing the people who run and work at them about things, like their selection processes and marketing style.
Which selfie museums have you been to?
I’ve only been to one, The Museum of Sex. It’s kind of half a tourist trap, and then half a well-researched museum. I plan on going to more using senior project grants.
How will you continue working on your virus from home, now that coronavirus is preventing you from going to these museums?
I’m going to stick to online research and reading articles for now to really work on the theory side of the thesis. I’ll be researching what selfie museums “mean.” Other than that, there’s not much I can do.
So, how does this topic tie into your personal interests when it comes to art?
I’m always interested in new and interesting things. These are sort of the “big things” in the museum world right now, at least from my perspective. Museums as a field can be very stagnant because of institutions, like the Met, which have been there for over 100 years. Selfie museums are quickly overtaking traditional museums in sales and media attention. It's kind of creating a panic in traditional museums because the people there are wondering how they can compete with these places that are so bright, colorful, and loud.
Do you have any interest in curatorial or marketing work post-graduation?
I’m obsessed with museums, and my goal is to work in one. I’ll probably end up going towards curation. There are other fields within museums I’d consider, though, like research, collections management, exhibition design, or marketing.
Have you had any internships at museums?
Yeah, I was a social media intern at this very small museum of Himalayan Buddhist art in the city. That’s definitely a big part of what I want to explore with the project. Marketing is such a huge part of the idea of these places. They really rely on media attention and public attention in ways that traditional museums don’t. The Met is just the Met. They can just be like, “we have this; come see it if you’re interested in our art and you want to learn stuff.” These places are like, “come have an experience-worthy, cool, fresh thing; we have a ball pit.”