Ever since Marcel Duchamp decided to enter a urinal entitled, “Fountain”, to the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 the art world was blown open for anything to be considered art and worthy of conserving. Had the monumental piece not been destroyed it would certainly be owned by one of the most magnificent museums the world has to offer. A replica existing at the Tate has been estimated to be worth £3.6 million. Traditionally it was in museums and archives that we stored the most important pieces of the present for future generations to attempt to rebuild and understand the past that came before them.
With the advent of Instagram, smartphones and selfies, the rate at which we can create content is almost as fast as the camera flash. The importance of all this content is that it can reveal the thoughts, ideas and lifestyles of societies and cultures throughout the world. Previously, historians could only paint fragmented pictures of the past and of ancient celebrities such as Julius Caesar. This was through the many sculptures and paintings he commissioned of himself as something to leave behind, a way of recording his time and preserving the memory of his reign. Given his vanity he certainly would have had a @jcaesar account with millions of followers. Instagram allows people not only to express, but also to record their lives. Both spontaneously and with careful planning we can now leave behind a much larger picture of ourselves, and moreover, a picture which we can edit, essentially creating our own histories.
Remember flicking through an old family scrapbook trying to imagine what life was like way back then from the same few faded photos? Your grandchildren probably won’t experience this dilemma as there will be so many pictures of our time that the appearance of cause and effect leading up to their time ought to be relatively easy to re-construct. It is therefore necessary to consider that with this extreme abundance of autobiographical content what we will choose to leave behind. Although technically even deleted content still exists somewhere, we can to a large extent to edit, delete and save those parts of our life which we desire to project to contemporary and future generations.
On a more collective level, what will the museums of the future choose to conserve and how will they decide what is worth keeping? The way in which we house our history is changing and it will be interesting to see how museums will adapt to preserve some of the changes that have had the greatest impact on shaping our present time.
It is undeniable that Instagram and other social media platforms contain valuable and crucial pieces of contemporary society and culture. Surely then some of the most prolific images ought to be saved somewhere safe for the future. *See below for a few of the most liked Instagram photos to date.
Good luck to the future historians searching for evidence of the past and churning through the old profiles mostly filled with cat memes and selfies. Good luck trying to figure out what this age of social media was all about because with this wealth of easily accessible information and content creation the evidence is so vast and varied that it becomes easy to lose sight of the truth about people and the most influential elements of our time. This overabundance of information is why it is vital to find ways to preserve and store the developments that have shaped our time and represent them as accurately as possible. For it is through the art that is left behind that we shall also discover something about ourselves and the situation in which we are living.
The guy who risked his life to take this selfie
The one that changed everything
The most liked Instagram photo of all time to date.