The @SFOMuseum Twitter Archive

This is a blog post by aaron.cope that was published on March 06, 2019 .

Earlier this year, Darren Milligan, Director of Smithsonian’s Learning Lab, posted the following question on Twitter:

Trying to source some examples, anecdotes, or writing on how museums capture non-institutional contextualization of digitized collection objects. This might include: external publishing platforms, social media activity, educational uses. … I guess the question is, is anyone capturing any of this activity?


A long and interesting conversation ensued and at one point I mentioned:

…the general-purpose rule of archiving activities on third-party sites to your own website


SFO Museum makes a point of being active on a number of social media platforms. We have accounts on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and a full-time staff member – Belinda Li – whose job it is to craft and curate posts related to the museum and its collection and share them far and wide on the internet.

It is important to recognize that Belinda’s work is not simply “non-institutional contextualization of digitized collection objects” but an important contribution, one that is central to the museum’s mission. Darren’s comments, though, served to highlight the fact that we haven’t done a great job of “capturing” or “archiving” any of it.

Until now! It’s early days but this is what we’ve done so far:

By way of example, the tweets associated with the #BehindTheScenes and #SFOHistory hashtags are a world of amazing wonderfulness and those are just two of many.

Some web pages for individual tweets will link to the exhibitions they mention. This is not the case for all tweets yet as we’ve just been kicking on the tires on how, and by whom, those links are made.

Likewise, all exhibitions now have an /exhibitions/EXHIBITION-ID/twitter page. Here are all the tweets for the “Richard Barnes: Murmur” photography exhibition, on display in Terminal 3, last year:

Other examples include the Isamu Noguchi: Inside and Out (23 tweets), and Celebrating a Vision: Art & Disability (96 tweets) and Fashion in Flight: A History of Airline Uniform Design (222 tweets) exhibitions.

Going forward, we plan to do the same for all the airplanes and airlines and airports not to mention individual objects in our collection.

So that’s where things stand today. We don’t model or publish these tweets (or any of the images or videos associated with them) using the approaches we’ve developed for installation photos or Flickr photos, at least not yet. It seems a little premature as we’re first trying to make sure that we can fashion the different data exports from the different providers in to something that plays well with the Mills Field website. Not all data exports are created equally but that’s another story for another day.

The next step is to do for our Facebook posts, and then Instagram photos, what we’ve done for our tweets. We’ll post updates along the way as we figure out how best not just to keep Belinda’s work safe but also make it an integral part of the Mills Field project itself.

Thanks, Darren!