An Ingenious Texting Bot from @SFMOMA | Beth's Blog

An Ingenious Texting Bot from @SFMOMA


As we enter the age of automation, more and more nonprofits are using bots. If bots are designed well, they can have impact.   The San Francisco Museum of Art recently launched an ingenious bot called “Send Me” that allows anyone to send a simple text message and receive a picture of a piece of art matching the idea, words, or phrase texted.

This is not the first art museum bot, as MOMA launched a bot on Twitter that shares art in 2014 and there are a number of museums that have used Facebook Messenger Bots, like the Ann Frank House to help people plan a visit or learn more about the exhibits. The SFMOMA works with SMS and is designed to solve a particular challenge.

The problem that the “Send Me SFMOMA” project is trying to solve is that The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has 34,678 items in its collection. If displayed all these items, you’d need to walk 121 miles to see them all. Unfortunately, museum only has the physical space to display only about 5% of the collection. And that’s where this ingenious bot comes in — it literally places artwork on the palm of your hand.

According to Jay Mollica is SFMOMA’s creative technologist, they asked the question, “In a world over saturated with information, we asked ourselves: how can we generate personal connections between a diverse cross section of people and the artworks in our collection? How can we provide a more comprehensive experience of our collection?”

According to the SFMOMA web site, during the first four days of its testing phase,  more than 12,000 text message requests were received, generating over 3,000 different artworks sent to users across the globe.   According to the Mollica, that is more art than is currently on display.

While the goal is to share the art that can’t be displayed, I wonder what the impact will be on visitation at the actual museum?    Nonetheless, the data that they receive from this service should surely offer the curators some food for thought in planning future exhibitions.

If you are need of inspiration or just stressed out, then the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art can help you practice a little self-care without leaving your office.   While you can’t always take a long enough break during your work break to create a work of art, looking at the right art work can be calming and refreshing.

I texted the word “Calm” and it send a work by  Vija Celmins that showed me the ocean.  It was a nice five minute break from the onslaught of emails and deadlines!

According to the SFMOMA website, all you have to do is  text 572-51 with the words “send me” followed by a keyword, a color, or even an emoji and you’ll receive a related artwork image and caption via text message.    Now it is your turn.  What did you text?  What did the bot send you?

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