Are you Pinterested?

Craig Hanson, who writes the Enfilade blog, recently posted on the Pinterest phenomenon, the online image pinboard service that is growing fast at the moment. Craig notes how images from museum websites are increasingly being ‘pinned’ and how this is helping to increase the public awareness of museum and heritage collections.

An often-pinned image: view into the Green Closet at Ham House. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

I had noticed something similar with images from this blog appearing on Pinterest. I find it fascinating to see which images (and, theferore, objects and places) are particularly popular – some get pinned and repinned numerous times.

There seems to be real mutual benefit in this: it helps museums and heritage institutions to understand what their audiences are interested in, and it helps individuals to find inspiring images and learn more about those objects and places.

Another current Pinterest favourite: Virginia Woolf’s bedroom at Monk’s House. ©National Trust Images/Eric Crichton

Some museums have responded by creating their own Pinterest boards, for instance the Metropolitan Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the British Museum. The National Trust also has an official Pinterest presence, put together by our web team and including some ‘prosumer’ content. It illustrates our multi-focused identity as a membership organisation, a nature conservation body as well as a museum authority.

One of the National Trust’s Pinterest boards, featuring images taken of Trust places by members and visitors.

My colleague Alex Hunt, who monitors external trends that might affect the National Trust, sent me a link to this post by We Are Social which analyses the profile of the American users of Pinterest: the majority of them is female and has design/art-related occupations and interests. 

National Trust images that combine colour, texture and historical atmoshpere tend to be favourites on Pinterest, such as this view from the Top Terrace at Powis Castle. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

According to We Are Social’s research, UK Pinterest users tend to have a slightly different profile (and there are far fewer of them), but both groups seem to have a high proportion of what marketing people call ‘influencers’, those whose activities and tastes are followed and imitated by others. A while ago I did some posts about influence and influencers, open-source art history and liquid networks.

Snapshot from Courtney Barnes’s tumblr page.

Fellow blogger Courtney Barnes, a classic cultural influencer, has recently started a visual diary on tumblr (which is similar in some ways to Pinterest), to record the discoveries that cannot immediately be accomodated on her main blog Style Court. It is a miniature (but growing) encyclopaedia of one person’s taste, an evolving mood board and a treasure trove of visual juxtapositions.

Another popular image from Treasure Hunt: Ellen Terry’s beetle dress for her role as Lady Macbeth, at Smallhythe. ©Zenzie Tinker

It is impossible to predict how the use of Pinterest will develop (I should perhaps revisit this in a year’s time), but at the moment it provides a wonderfully magnified view of the inner workings of cultural exchange, inspiration and networking.

10 Responses to “Are you Pinterested?”

  1. Hammond-Harwood House Says:

    Hammond-Harwood House is on Pinterest too! I’m currently brainstorming ideas for new boards. Until recently, I was concerned about the Pinterest terms of service as they related to copyright and image reproduction, but now that they have changed those I don’t see any problems. I do think that I will put a watermark on our images of our portraits and other important collections items though.

  2. style court Says:

    Nt’s presence on Pinterest, along with Hammond-Harwood House, and the venerable art museums you mentioned, Emile, is exciting, I think. For all sorts of reasons. I’m sure there were quite a few American pinners who had a strong interest in Monk’s House or Powis Castle, for example, but knew a lot less about the NT connection until they discovered your boards. I’m really looking forward to watching the boards grow — they’re a wonderful source of inspiration and offer us (those of us far away) a chance to do some mental summer traveling.

    Thanks for the mention, too! I was surprised but honored to be included here🙂

  3. PGT Says:

    yes, I pin, however I do wonder about the dumbing down it inevitably creates– images impact and certainly meaning are often lost. the internet gives much and takes much. I am often surprised how easily an image is “picked up” and misnamed, etc etc. and suddenly it is taken as fact-there are not that many pinners interested in making an investigation into fact. I’ve looked into many boards for this very reason and seen the same images pinned with different captions on a single board by the same pinner

    tumblr accommodates for me as with Courtney a way to open up another avenue for ideas-most of them related directly to my blog content.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Alison, here are your Pinterest boards, for reference:

    Yes copyright is a complicated and complicating issue. On the other hand, most images used on sites like Pinterest are fairly low-resolution and therefore cannot really be (mis)used commercially.

    Courtney, thanks very much. I think the NT’s strength is being able to function as an umbrella for all sorts of beneficial projects and activities, being a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, I think the organisation also has to be careful to avoid too much corporate uniformity, and to allow the uniqueness of the individual places to come to the fore.

    And here, Gaye, are your boards:

    And looking at them I just spotted an image of the John Fowler decoration at Sudbury Hall, which presumably originally came via Treasure Hunt🙂

    I agree that dumbing down is facilitated by Pinterest – but so is learning and discovering beauty🙂 It is a powerful too that can be used lazily, but it also has the potential to lead the curious to the source of a great image, so that they can then learn about the context.

    And of course it is a relatively new tool, too, and it will be interesting to see how its use develops.

  5. Vic Says:

    I see a possibility for teachers to use this service to help students collect images of sites that interest them and to research those sites more deeply. I foresee that Pinterest can help our ESOL students create story boards as they learn English. There are so many ways to use this service well … and to abuse it!

  6. Meredith Says:

    Hi Emile! I use Pinterest to collect images that relate to current projects….much of my inspiration is better shared with images…still percolating the papers, presentations and images from the conference at Northhampton. couldn’t wait to repin the Ellen Terry costume onto my inspiration boards as I have a particular interest in costume….thanks!

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Meredith, I too very much enjoyed our conversations at that stimulating conference at the University of Northampton.

    You may be interested to see these two previous posts about the conservation and installation of Terry costume:

  8. Lynne Rutter (@lynnerutter) Says:

    I have been using Pinterest as well and it’s staggering how quickly an image can be re-pinned (171 time in one hour? wow!) and spread. My only gripe is that often the source of the image is not credited having been pinned via google image search or somewhere other than the source and how little effort is made by most pinners to attribute an image. Even so, I do find it’s been useful for ideas and it is great to see your positive attitude towards the educational/awareness raising possibilities of this new site.

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes I agree with you that Pinterest seems to work really well in providing design inspiration, and less well for assisting with more academic research.

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Apologies Vic, your message got gobbled up by the spam bot for some reason! Yes a teaching resource is another potential use of Pinterest, including dicussions about why certain images were chosen, where they have come from and how relevant they are.

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