Memes should be archived in a museum

Arran Rees, a PhD researcher based in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, recently talked to the BBC about memes and museums.

Arran’s research, which is funded by the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH), looks at how museums can begin developing methods for collecting social media content. Throughout his research, Arran has discussed memes as digital cultural heritage on a number of occasions.

As part of this, Arran Rees has been working with Phillip Roberts, the Associate Curator of Photography and Photographic Technology at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The museum explores the science and culture of image and sound technologies, and together Arran and Phillip are looking at how the museum might collect memes.

After spending a month working at ACMI, the Australian Centre for Moving Image, Arran wrote a short article for their website last year on preserving memes. This was subsequently picked up by digital journalist Ian Casey, who asked Arran to talk a bit more about the memes he thinks should be preserved and what museums are currently doing with them.

Now that people are staying at home, memes are being widely circulated on the internet and coming into peoples’ lives more and more by the day.

In a short film, now available for viewing on the BBC website, Arran talks about some of his reasons for archiving memes in museums:

“Memes should be considered as part of our cultural heritage. I think that museums and archives around the world should be collecting them.

“Memes are a mixture of still and moving images, often overlaid with text, expressing funny, humorous commentary on people, places or events.

“I have been working with the National Science and Media Museum to look at memes as examples of how photographic technology and the use of photographs have changed because of the internet.”

Arran also talks about his top five memes, including ‘Woman yelling at cat’, ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and the Museum of English Rural Life’s ‘Absolute Unit’.

Memes should be archived in a museum was filmed in early March and can be viewed here on the BBC website.