A pandemic creates inarguably awful circumstances for arts institutions and museums, but conditions that necessitate everyone being forced to stay inside and glued to their electronic devices creates interesting opportunities for social media managers. On Tuesday, a charming hashtag, #MuseumSunshine, spread across Twitter as representatives for different museums shared items from their collections saturated with sunlight and natural scenery. Undoubtedly, the hashtag is supposed to bring a sense of hopefulness to everyone trapped in their homes and stressing out about the future, while simultaneously generating engagement for museums that are temporarily totally reliant on their digital platforms.
When offered up on social media, artworks like Judy Chicago‘s dreamy 1971 piece Study for Sun Garden and Mildred Thompson’s energetic 1990 painting Magnetic Fields can serve as welcome breaks from an endless stream of information about daily coronavirus death tolls and stories about the crashing economy. This soothing diversion is, of course, the point.
Emily Haight, social media manager for the New-York Historical Society, who originated the hashtag, told us, “After the overwhelming and positive reaction to #MuseumBouquet, which was co-created by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and us here at the New-York Historical Society, we decided to team up again and follow it with #MuseumSunshine as something that would help bring some much needed cheer to everyone’s Twitter feeds,” she said. “We wanted to focus on something that would be uncomplicated for our fellow social media managers at cultural organizations: almost everyone has a yellow object or a sunshine-filled work of art in their collections. So far more than 2,000 users have participated and the hashtag was trending.”
But there’s also a solidarity being displayed via this social media hashtag that indirectly points to a trend that’s cropped up in certain hospitals. Every time a COVID-19 patient has been discharged from Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital on Long Island, doctors have blasted the Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” in celebration. During a moment in time where every day seems saturated with darkness, uncertainty and collective psychological cloudiness, gestures such as these shouldn’t be underestimated. Until someone develops a coronavirus vaccine, the celebration of something as previously-benign as sunlight is as close as we’re going to get to experiencing collective catharsis.