Lauren Hewes is Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts at the American Antiquarian Society. She’s also the person behind the society’s excellent Instagram account. The captions accompanying Lauren’s posts offer mini history lessons or stories about the objects being featured. But the visual emphasis of Instagram allows her to provide AAS’s followers with other pathways into its collection as well. As a result, Lauren has been able to build an eclectic audience, ranging from book lovers to tattoo artists.
We spoke with Lauren about the parallels between designing an exhibition and posting to Instagram, what it means for individuals to “curate” their social media presence, and how she’s cultivated the persona of (in her words) a 205-year-old grandma as the voice of the AAS Instagram.
4:38 – Lauren explains how she got started running the AAS Instagram account.
8:05 – Does Lauren see what she’s doing on Instagram as building an archive?
14:21 – Lauren discusses how she designs posts for a range of different audiences.
17:35 – Instagram seems to encourage individual users to be rather selective and curatorial in the images that they post. What does it mean for someone to think of themselves as “curating” their personal Instagram account? Does extending the word “curate” into the realm of social media cheapen it at all?
23:12 – Is it appropriate for special collections libraries to be active on social media?
25:28 – Is there a risk of diminishing the significance of special collections on social media? If so, how do you avoid it?