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SFMOMA Sends 2 Million Texts About Modern Art in 5 Days

SFMOMA Sends 2 Million Texts About Modern Art in 5 Days

Your museum just ran out of wall space, but there are still thousands of artworks left to display. What to do? If you're SFMOMA, you use text messaging.

Too Much Modern Art?

Let’s say you’ve got 34,678 pieces of modern artwork lying around for some reason.

You really want to put them all on display for the world to see—but there’s only room to hang about 5% of the collection.

And so your brain begins to storm: How to make more of this modern art available for contemplation?


NPR recently wrote about how the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art found a creative way to put its 34,678-piece collection on display.

The solution was something called Send Me SFMOMA:

Send Me SFMOMA is an SMS service that provides an approachable, personal, and creative method of sharing the breadth of SFMOMA’s collection with the public.

To use the service, just text “Send me,” plus the person/place/thing/idea of your dreams, to the short code 57251.

“Send me a cookie,” for example, might result in this delicious pic from Martin Parr’s 1995 British Food collection.

Emojis are cool, too, so “Send me 🙃” might get you this topsy-turvy video installation from Bruce Nauman.

When you send in that “Send me” text, you’re actually initiating a request to SFMOMA’s API. It runs a search on the museum’s collection and then returns a work of art to match your request.

Someone else, however, could send the exact same “Send me” text and get a completely different work of art.

Fun fact: According to SFMOMA creative technologist Jay Mollica, the volume of texts triggered by Send Me SFMOMA beta was so high that mobile carriers actually blacklisted the museum’s original long-code number before they started using 57251.

Funner fact: According to Keir Winesmith, head of SFMOMA’s web and digital platforms, the museum “sent 2 million text messages in five days.”

Now that’s a lot of modern art!

An SMS Exhibit

Being of the curious sort, we wanted to see for ourselves just how Send Me SFMOMA worked.

So, here are some examples of what we text-requested and what SFMOMA sent back …

As you can see, the results aren’t always what you might expect … and occasionally you don’t get anything back but a nice “not found” note with some suggestions.

That doesn’t make this Send Me SFMOMA thing any less fun, though.

Go ahead, give it a shot and see what kind of off-display artwork you can dig up.

Oh, and if you happen to know about any museums in need of a texting program, we recently heard about this really cool SMS marketing software. 😉

Try it free for 14 days!

If you enjoyed this blog, why not share it with your friends? We’d certainly appreciate a shout-out—and who knows, maybe you and your friends could turn Send Me SFMOMA into some kind of fun texting-for-art contest. 🙂

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