Art History in the age of Twitter

Preamble: The Hashtag (#)

For the benefit of people who aren’t familiar with it, I’ll begin this post with a brief explanation of the hashtag (#). (Others may want to skip ahead to the next section.) I’m going to take the lazy path and use twitter’s own description. Here it is:

“The hashtag symbol helps categorize Tweets by keyword — words preceded by the # symbol are grouped with other Tweets containing that same #word. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category. Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet. Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics. In short, hashtags make it easy for users to follow not just particular users, but rather a subject that interests them.”

Clio, the muse of history, eyes Twitter

Twitter alights on #ArtHistory

As an art historian and a regular twitterer (@obridge), I’m curious about how my own subject is represented on twitter. So for the past two or three months, and with this blog in mind, I’ve been paying close attention to all posts containing the term #arthistory. (Conversely, a lot of art history related tweets are not so designated and are thus much less likely to come to my attention.)

It pains me to say this(!) but #arthistory may never be one of twitter’s “trending topics.” On an average day, only a dozen or so #arthistory tweets will be sent. Some of these simply add #arthistory to an existing tweet, which is then retweeted. Others draw attention to content on the web: a news story, blog post, website, video, etc. These typically contain a url and some indication as to the subject of the linked material. Most of the tweets I contribute, like the following one, fit this second category:

Occasionally there’s also space for editorializing within the strict limits of twitter’s 140 characters. Here’s another of my tweets:

Notice that, if I have space, I’ll also try to indicate a source (BBC, APM’s Marketplace). This provides readers with a little reassurance and hints at the likely quality, length and style of the piece.

In the coda at the end of this post, I’ve made a short list of active #arthistory contributors, all of whom are worth following.

Notes from the field of #ArtHistory

The #arthistory tweets that have really been catching my attention follow a rather different logic. These are written by art history majors and graduate students or, more often, by undergraduates taking art history classes. (One surmises they are often less than fully engaged in their art history studies.) The reasons for even bothering to use the #arthistory hashtag can be obscure. It’s not necessarily because you’re trying to communicate to other people interested in art history, nor because the tweeter ever intends to search for the term him or herself. Rather, the #arthistory hashtag, like any other, is a way of efficiently and emphatically designating the topic of the tweet, while also increasing the likely size of your tweet’s audience. There may be an element of “sticking it to the man” in the decision, too. You may not want your own professor to know exactly how you feel–at least, not until your grade has been determined–but how about other professors and devotees of the subject?

What follows is a collection of #arthistory tweets I’ve collected over approximately the last three months and organized thematically (and impressionistically). They’ve been chosen simply because I’ve found them amusing, perceptive, or just symptomatic of people’s experience of the discipline. Many of them were presumably tweeted from the classroom or the lecture hall via laptops, cell phones, and blackberries. Think of them as notes from the field of #arthistory.

[NB: Twitter is a public forum and I have not sought permission to reprint this material. If I have quoted your tweet and you wish it removed, please contact me. To read more tweets by an author, simply click on their user name, which appears in blue at the start of each tweet.]

Pro #ArtHistory (with slight surprise?)

  • phosfurbus is loving his new favorite subject #arthistory
  • SherinAbraham I truly do love this class. This professor makes me exercise my brain like its in a zumba class. #arthistory #passion
  • r0achie89 soooo can’t go to my #arthistory class tomorrow bc i gotta work…… :/ i actually like that class….
  • emackley I might regret saying this…but the painting I picked for my research paper is actually really interesting. #arthistory #hudsonriverschool

On art and art historians

@emily_mclain after Malevich's "Black Square"

  • SeanNahlik GAWD, I am not a fan of Le Corbusier and his modernist brethren. #arthistory #dystopia
  • snoodtastic On Clive Bell, aesthetics, significant form. My first impression: what a doofus. #ArtHistory
  • loverlydarling Oh gosh, Rosalind Krauss went to Wellesley?! That makes SO MUCH SENSE. #art #arthistory #nerdlyfe
  • yaydeepvs was looking for images of Tanguy’s Neither Legends or Shapes and I got Tan Guys… #arthistory #fail

Obscure #ArtHistory

  • eliBee01 Question: What is the equivilent of one 17th century Italian scudi in today’s money (sterling)? #arthistory
  • analogue01 you know you study #arthistory when your thesis cites “historical contributions to pediatric pathology”
  • begonyacayuela Is iconographic transmission like chained events from a single source? #iconography #arthistory #medievalart

Uses and Abuses of #ArtHistory

  • gu3rn1ca Talking about how to make different explosives in #arthistory
  • erinmurr just informed women did not where togas in rome,my teacher told me next time i go to a toga party she ll hook me up w/an outfit.#arthistory
  • CiaE7 omg i have never seen the word “sadist” used until now… go #arthistory !! lmbo #nerdytweet

Anti #ArtHistory (yes, it’s a large category)

  • BURNSmanJR Bout to attend the worst class I scheduled… #artHISTORY… #worst
  • timbod2003 I hate #ArtHistory, that’s why I skip 90% of the classes, and still have an A in the class
  • skeletonelle I can honestly feel my brain atrophying as I sit here. I could be doing productive things right now. #arthistory #isawful
  • darraghrose This class is the bane of my existence #arthistory
  • blastmaster94 #ArtHistory is a pointless class for the type of art Im going to be doing……
  • DedicatedPraise Sheesh i actually have to read tonite.. -_- #ArtHistory #BlowsmyLIFE .
  • IsaDoesntTweet #arthistory #death #endoftheday
  • thesalaciousJ #thingsthatpissmeoff #arthistory

The #ArtHistory lecture

  • Jill_Murph #flashcards my cat kept sitting on them and eyebalin me, so I gave her an #arthistory lecture. Now we’re both educated. #twobirds
  • pizointblank New music on my #ipod 🙂 I can get through this #arthistory #class now 🙂
  • RealSJCleveland Apparently greeks like doing flips over bulls. #arthistory
  • nicholel06 Why do Itallian last names have to be so complicated? #ArtHistory
  • KeeshDz There are four naked men before me. #ArtHistory
  • MFlanders Those are penises, y’all. Everyone’s skirting the issue. That there? Thats a penis. #arthistory
  • annamarisa angry vaginas #arthistory
  • yaydeepvs Erotic Demonism. Story of my life. #arthistory
  • REMiTlkz Everything we look @ has something to do with burials… #arthistory
  • RealSJCleveland Another type of body that would start smelling are deAd bodies #arthistory
  • Rqabazard Professor simon I don’t care why the dude got killed! I just wanna go home:( #arthistory
  • RealSJCleveland Too many people take their shoes off in class #arthistory
  • lschommer stomachs are rumbling. people are snoring.. it must be #arthistory
  • BFuncky I was paying attention when he called on me today. I just had a twix in my mouth. #arthistory

The infallible #ArtHistory professor

  • Danimo25 “Wales, as you know, is an island”. Then soon afterward “Germanic peoples would walk to England for healing” #arthistory!
  • Danimo25 “All native americans believed they were descended from animals, especially bears” #arthistory!
  • ahhhhhhhllison ‘yet matisse’s image cannot be read simply as an exotic luxury item for male consumption’ #wtf #arthistory
  • muDARTH_VADER Love being taught about my Indian heritage from an old white guy. #thatsnotsarcasm #arthistory #buddhistart
  • pizointblank Religion lesson in #arthistory. That’s cool. #getmeouttahere!
  • alichastain “how many hours do you suggest we study?” “well if you study, hmm, around ten hours or more…. That should be good” #arthistory

Yada yada #ArtHistory

  • aubirdy I don’t understand how one person can talk so long about nothing… #arthistory
  • MyBrainForAPen all of these questions are running in a complete circle #Arthistory
  • lyriclovesyouu blah blah blah #arthistory.
  • pizointblank Blah blahh blahhhh #arthistory
  • emily_mclain Type a sentence, check word count, despair, repeat. #arthistorypaper

Boredom, Sleep & Sleeplessness

  • elbarbaro I have never been so bored in my whole life #arthistory
  • blastmaster94 smh…..#ArtHistory is about as boring as watching paint dry….
  • OneBadNdn In this #boring ass #ArtHistory classssss! #SOMEONESAVEME!
  • connorcook update: lights on, mr. j isn’t talking, still can’t stay awake. #Arthistory #zzz
  • cuhris I need to stay awake.. I need to stay awake.. #arthistory
  • brandyinboise School is invading my dreams. Stupid triglyphs and metropes. #arthistory
  • audrey7291 There’s not enough room in my head for all of these dates…gonna be a long night of studying #arthistory

#ArtHistory Miracles

  • Genefusion Someone signed me in on the day I wasn’t there for class. Thanks mystery angel. #ArtHistory
  • heathderby Got my #ArtHistory essay back and i didnt fail! haha i must be working up some miracles here! =P

Things to do while not doing #ArtHistory


  • LondonRook Pulling an all-nighter beating Assassins Creed 2 does not make you an expert in 16th century florentine encaustics #ArtHistory #IShouldStudy
  • applejuice270 back in #arthistory with #misskelly. i will tweet much

Coda: Some #ArtHistory contributors worth following


@albertis_window: An art history blog that contains anecdotes, news, trivia, exhibition reviews, interesting facts, and stuff that you might not have learned in college.


@arthistorytocs: A blog to keep track of open access journals in art history.


@heidenkind: An art historian and bibliophile–among other things.


@MosesHawk: Artist. painter. alchemist. precocius. serial entrepreneur, connector….


@Smarthistory: Open art history web-text using multimedia conversation for students, teachers, travelers & the curious. Tweeters: @drszucker @bethrharris @julianakreinik.

@tuscanyart: Alexandra’s news about the Arts in Tuscany: exhibits, videos, reviews, artists, history, restoration, artisans, architecture… from the official source.



@woodpainter: Art history, digital humanities, history of photography, seeing

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