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Using Pinterest to See the Future

Category: Center for the Future Of Museums Blog

What is the fastest growing social media startup-of-the-moment?

Pinterest, a site devoted to “visual scrapbooking.” Pinterest’s first investor, Brian Cohen, attributes the site’s burgeoning popularity to “people’s natural desire to curate and others’ need to find those curators.” A natural match for museums, yes? (Especially as the demographic of Pinterest users—70% women between the ages of 25 and 44—is a close match to the demographics of emerging museum professionals.)

Food bloggers use Pinterest to share mouth-watering pictures of food they have cooked, or eaten. Fashionistas use it to share their taste and finds. And museums are beginning to use it as well—SFMOMA, for example, curates beautiful image boards, drawing on their collections. But this site can also be a way to engage communities in your work: Nina Simon has adapted Pinterest to coordinate design-in-progress at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, enabling the museum’s staff to share images with each other and with the public.

Now I’m pinning too. Why?

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First of all, to bring this social media opportunity to your attention. As Jasper Visser points out, Pinterest could be your museum’s new best friend. It is a way to share and encourage sharing with a low barrier to entry and participation.

I’m also using Pinterest because with the debut of CFM’s TrendsWatch, my scanning has become much more visually oriented. My colleagues and I are spending a lot of time looking for images that illustrate potential futures and demonstrate how these futures can be glimpsed in the present.

So I’ve set up an account where I’m stashing all the interesting images I come across that relate to the future of museums. There is one “board” (collection) for each of the seven trends profiled in our new report, TrendsWatch 2012: Museums & the Pulse of the Future

Check out the “Creative Aging” for images of the “granny pods” that may house our aging selves. At “Takin’ It to the Streets” you can see the World Famous Crochet Museum (housed in a portable Fotomat kiosk, an image I regret did not make it into the final TrendsWatch layout). And in The Future of Education you can see the cutest preschooler, working on her next masterpiece at the Lincoln Nursery School, housed in the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. (Potential Datelab profile question in the future: “Which museum did you go to for preschool?”)

Give it a look. Should you decide to leap in, Pinterest nominally requires you to be “invited” to join. However, a colleague of mine just signed in using his Facebook account without an invitation—so maybe the developers are phasing out that requirement. In any case, the site is growing so quickly in popularity, I’m sure if you ping your social-media savvy network of friends (on Facebook, Twitter or Google+) you will find a Pinner happy to ask you in. If not, email me and I’ll open the door (but please don’t use CFM as your first line of entry, I’m worried it will overwhelm my in-box!)

One of CFM’s Pinterest boards is called “Inspirations for the Future of Museums,” and I’m inviting you to help in filling it up, pinning images that illustrate your hopes, dreams and fears for our field, decades hence. If you would like to contribute to this board, set up a Pinterest account, make at least one board of your own, and then email me at with your Pinterest name. I’ll add you as a collaborator on “Inspirations” and together we will create a scrapbook of the future.

Read more about Pinterest with this collection of links.

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  1. I like the idea of museums using Pinterest to share ideas and collaborate with partners. I just hope the company gets its potential copyright issues in check.

  2. I had a Pinterest account, but closed it after reports that the Terms of Use may encourage the violation of copyright. Be sure to read the Terms of Use and make sure you can live with them before signing up.

  3. Thanks for the link. I've been following articles about Pinterest where I can because of this issue. The site is fun and attractive, but I don't want to get sued personally for posting someone else's stuff. (Pinterest's Terms of Use put the copyright onus back on the user.) While the caption space might keep Pinterest from getting sued, they aren't doing a good job about telling us how to use it so we don't get sued. Ah, the growing pains of a new social media site!

    -Mary Warner
    Morrison County Historical Society

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