Image: Taking pictures of your meal is one common type of social media photography. More than 65 000 000 posts on Instagram are tagged with #lunch.

Shaping new recommendations for collecting and disseminating social media photography is part of the Collecting Social Photo project goals. This specific goal was set on the assumption that collecting social media photography is still a novelty among museums and archives.

A recent survey in Sweden, performed by the Collecting Social Photo project, with responses from 8 archives and 23 museums confirms that collecting photography from social media is not on the agenda for most archives and museums. The survey results are also aligned with the conclusions from Professor Helena Wulff’s in depth interviews at two national museums in Sweden during the first year of the project.

In Sweden many archives are not actively collecting photography, and we can assume that this has affected their thoughts about social media photography. As for the 23 museums that responded to the survey, an overwhelming majority – that manage physical photography collections – do not collect social media photography. Main reasons are lack of knowledge, competence and resources, but we can also detect to some extent a lack of relevance. There seems to be uncertainty as to why museums should collect social digital photography.

Another major issue is that of digitizing analog photography collections, which most museums have not prioritized compared to other types of objects and documents. In Sweden, only a fraction of all heritage photograph collections are digitized and online. At the same time as the demand for photography collections online is growing, this is an ongoing effort which most museums have both awareness about, it is a dedicated initiative, and have set aside resources for. But as the photography collections are vast and digitization of objects has been prioritized, this is still an overwhelming task which the survey also has indicated.

Finally, as several of the respondents have noted “it is not in our mission” to collect social digital photography. This highlights the need for these issues to be addressed at management level and for policy decisions to be made. For the Collecting Social Photo project understanding attitudes, policies and practices in the Nordic countries will consequently be essential when shaping new recommendations.

Further reading

Boogh, Elisabeth & Diaz, Merja. (2013). Bilder för framtiden – Strategier för Insamling av Digitalt Födda Fotografier. Malmö Museer/Stockholms läns museum. (In Swedish)

Hartig, K. (2014). “Digital Dilemmas: The Impact of Digital Tools on Photograph Collections.” In Edwards, E. & Lien, S. (ed.). Uncertain images: museums and the work of photographs. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 225–243.