“There and Again”: mapping exhibition items and visitors’ memories

Luca Melchionna, Italy

The idea

There and again. Souvenir de voyage” was an exhibition produced by the Mart, Musem of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto between June and Semptember 2013. Curated by the museum’s internal curatorial staff, the exhibition featured videos, installations, paintings and sculptures by contemporary artists, but also accounts of journeys through documents, photographs and archive material that lead the visitors to real, imagined and imaginary places. “Photographing”, stated Susan Sontag, “means establishing a special relationship with the world”.  This was one of the exhibition themes that resonated within our web team: a group of 9 colleagues from all departments of the museum that uses online resources to provide access to quality content produced by the museum. In particular, we reflected on the idea that global mass tourism inundates us with images of places with a “tourist slant”.

We imagined the development of a map that, by exploiting the direct access to information made possible by social media, could make it easier to build the “special relationship with the world” advocated by Sontag. Such a map had to be beautiful. It had to be easy to populate with content: a selection of images from the exhibition and – clearly identified by a different visual identity – geo-tagged content uploaded by our web community.

For non-contributors, visualizing content on an online map could be a way to better make sense of a spatial dimension needed to fully appreciate the exhibition itself prior of after an actual visit to the museum.

Contributors were expected to become involved and hopefully advocate for the museum. We used the “reach-interest- involve-activate” engagement cycle (Visser and Richardson, 2013) as an overall strategy.

Finally, we thought the map could give us some answers to the pressing question “what do your current or new audiences want to do with your content?” (R. Cardiff, R. Sinker and K. Beaven, 2013)



We hired an external team of programmers, storytellers and designers (Pleens, Accurat), and we asked them to code and design the map. For a period of two months users could enter tweets, foursquare check-ins, facebook statuses and instagram photos, even if they were not geo-tagged; the #andataericordo hashtag had to be there, though. Extra work was done in the background to match entries with map points. Not all content would go on the map: an editorial check was done in real-time.
The museum web team and the external developers worked together to find a community of influencers who would start to populate the map. The travel bloggers community responded with enthusiasm. They were our backup plan in case the map took too long to fill up with tweets.


1526 tweets were launched by 430 persons, and read by 789.000 persons, with a potential exposure of 7,1 million users (source: Tweetreach). 251 tweets were selected to appear on the map. 26 entries were in fact blog posts, some of which of remarkable narrative quality.

After the conclusion of our “Map of memories”, we developed a plan to maintain the level of engagement of this new community with surprise present packages and call-to-actions on twitter.

We also used their feedback “We want to take photos inside the exhibitions” to partially change the museum photo policy.

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