GLAMi nomination: Send Me SFMOMA

nominated by: Jay Mollica, SFMOMA, USA
institution: SFMOMA
category: Exhibition and Collection Extension

Send Me SFMOMA is an SMS service that provides a unique method of sharing SFMOMA’s collection with the public. Anyone can text 572-51 with a keyword, a color or even an emoji and they will receive a related artwork image and caption by text, e.g. “send me the ocean”, “send me San Francisco” or “send me something blue”.

The project was conceived of as a way to bring to light lesser seen works in the collection, in keeping with SFMOMA’s mission to mean more to more people. Most people, when searching for art, use names of familiar artists or artworks. Utilizing the SFMOMA Collection API, the Send Me service ignores famous names in favor of thematic and descriptive terms. Many of the works shared have been in storage for years, or even decades, and are rarely seen by the public. SFMOMA’s collection consists of over 34,000 artworks, only around 2,000 of which are on view at the museum on any given day. Less than 5% of the collection is accessible to the public when visiting the museum.

During its beta run, Send Me SFMOMA returned such a deluge of responses that the original number was blacklisted by major mobile carriers — they thought SFMOMA was spamming people with art! Within four days, more than 12,000 text message requests were received, generating over 3,000 different artworks (that’s more than what is currently on view at SFMOMA) sent to users across the globe. Once we recognized the popularity of this service, we secured a short code — a preapproved five-digit number that carriers know not to blacklist.

When Send Me SFMOMA made its official debut in mid-June, we hoped to receive 100,000 queries by the end of the summer. We felt that would give us enough data to meaningfully analyze the text service’s use, and help us understand the gaps between how we tag our collection and how our audience would like to explore it. By the end of July, however, we had received over 3.7 million text requests.

The success of the project has ignited the interest of museums around the world. Since the project launched we have engaged with organizations around the world to help them develop and launch similar initiatives.

In July of last year Send Me SFMOMA went viral. Over the course of the summer we responded to over 4.5 million text messages.

The public reaction was overwhelmingly positive, which confirmed our belief that people all over the country want art and culture to be a daily part of their lives and leveraging egalitarian technologies is a great way to engage your audience.

Here’s a great compilation of the public interest put together by our social media manager:

The project was featured in thousands of media outlets including a live segment on the Today Show, The New York Times, The Guardian and O Magazine.