Archives interest in Pinterest...

A few days ago, fellow archives blogger, Melissa Mannon, drew my attention to a new social media tool that is currently making quite a visual statement.

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that lets you place web content into sticky-note sized blocks that you can organize onto pinboards that fill the entire browser screen. The majority of each block is filled by a photo, and the ability to “like,” “repin” or comment at the bottom make it look like its own mini web page.

Pinterest goes against the conventional ways of organizing information online based on reverse chronology, as favored by Twitter and Facebook, relying instead on visual organization. As Melissa has smartly pointed out, this visual organization technique makes Pinterest a very powerful tool for archives and cultural heritage organizations looking for new ways to share online content, collaborate with others, drive Internet traffic, and generate dialogue about digital collections.

In my preliminary search of Pinterest, I noticed several users have bookmarked and sourced images from the National Archives and the Library of Congress. The Smithsonian also has its own outpost on Pinterest.

The Smithsonian Institution's Pinterest site.

What are the applications for your own archive? Content curation is an area in which archives can excel. According to Francisco Rosales at SocialMouths “We all know content curation can be a very powerful way to build authority around a topic. Select a couple of topics related to your industry and create boards to curate all kinds of content around them.” This seems like a natural fit for the archives profession and a great way to generate conversation on wide-ranging topics and materials.

Pinterest is also quickly becoming recognized as yielding high referral results -- meaning that users discover a website through material posted in Pinterest. If archival repositories work on putting content on Pinterest, it could likely result in higher traffic to their websites and digital collections.

Pinterest can also be used as an outreach tool, as Melissa Mannon points out on her blog, ArchivesInfo. Adding text to each pin to provide greater context to the image, adding pins of archives boxes to explain how archivists organize and preserve collections, adding pins of interesting items found in the stacks, and highlighting unprocessed collections are just a few of the ideas Melissa has highlighted.
However, potential Pinterest users should be warned that there may be some copyright and legal pitfalls to pinning content on Pinterest. The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, offers some sound advice for those of us using this new social media platform. Judy advises readers to be cautious about pinning third-party content, and suggests that if you plan to pin content that falls outside the scope of your own collections, you can never go wrong if you "look for content that is in the public domain; things that are covered by a Creative Commons license as long as you stay within the precise terms of the license; and anything where you have permission to copy it. When it doubt, ask. You absolutely can never go wrong asking for permission."

To learn more about Pinterest, you can also check out the following links for further information:

Gordon Belt is an information professional, archives advocate, public historian, and author of The History Press book, John Sevier: Tennessee's First Hero, which examines the life of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier, through the lens of history and memory. On The Posterity Project, Gordon offers reflections on archives, public history, and memory from his home state of Tennessee.