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Screenshots from Kunstmuseum Basel's Instagram page asking followers what kind of content they want to see online. Courtesy of Kunstmuseum Basel

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The top six hashtags to follow now as the art world moves onto social media

The museums of Modern art in New York and San Francisco are leading the way on promoting digital content on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook

Social media platforms are the perfect virtual meeting places, so it is only natural that, as museums and galleries are closing their doors in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, they are focusing on their online accounts. Many are sharing videos, live streams and online events using the tag #MuseumFromHome. On Twitter, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York kicked things off by posting a new soundtrack by Conor Bourgal called A Portable Embrace, “to keep you company in front of a painting, or when you’re alone in a city”, according to the museum’s website. The museum is also inviting writers to share original poems about works in its collection, which you can access from MoMA’s Instagram stories or its website.

But it is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA) that is at the forefront of promoting digital museum content on Twitter under the #MuseumFromHome banner, tagging and retweeting other spaces’ initiatives. It is an essential follow if you want to keep up to date with forthcoming events.

MoMA and SFMoMA, like so many art institutions around the world, are trying to be innovative on social media during the lockdown. “Here’s to the many (virtual) ways we can continue coming together as we #MuseumFromHome,” reads one of the MoMA’s Instagram posts. More than ever, live streaming on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is being explored in new ways.

The Mori Art Museum in Tokyo posted a walkthrough of its Future and the Arts exhibition on its Instagram account; The Broad in Los Angeles did the same with its Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrored Rooms (“see what it’s like to be in this installation for longer than 45 seconds” they quipped in one tweet); the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto has streamed performances on Facebook Live; and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is doing daily tours of its galleries. Most of these have been saved and are still available to view.

But everyone is still getting to grips with how best to move towards this virtual existence. Many museums are asking visitors and viewers directly to suggest the kind of content they want. The Kunstmuseum Basel, for example, has been crowdsourcing ideas on its Twitter and Instagram stories for what they are calling The Digital Museum. One thing is for certain—Covid-19 is great for museums’ social media followings. The Uffizi Galleries in Florence launched a Facebook page on 10 March and within a week they had more than 30,000 followers—which is not quite as shocking as the fact that one of the world’s most popular museums has only just joined the world’s most popular social media platform.

While the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is closed it is doing daily tours of its galleries Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

The top six art hashtags to follow while on Covid-19 lockdown

1. #MuseumFromHome

As mentioned above, this is an essential feed to follow for the latest online initiatives. A similar hashtag that is trending is #VisitfromHome and there is also a French version #cultureàdomicile. There is also a very fun strand that began here where art professionals trapped and bored at home have been making one-minute long videos about a single work of art or artefact that they love. The idea was started by the freelance museum worker Sacha Coward and he is encouraging others to follow suit.

2. #MuseumMomentOfZen

As the world gets caught up in coronavirus-related anxiety, lots of art institutions are sharing beautiful and peaceful works of art from their collections or views of empty galleries while the museums are shut. This is a perfect antidote to stressful working-from-home days and lonely self-isolation.

3. #MuseSocial

More for the social media teams at museums, this feed is a great place to either vent about the chaotic and mammoth task of taking your museum's output online or to get a heads up about what people are planning for the coming weeks.

4. #WhyILoveMuseums

Yesterday was #WhyILoveMuseums Day and lots of accounts are sharing their thoughts. "We love museums because, even now, they can offer us a unique connection to history, culture, nature and stories that help us understand our world. It might often be through exhibitions & galleries, but don't forget their online content is still there for you now," tweeted London's Natural History Museum.

5. #ArchivesHashtagParty

This one is for the proper history nerds out there. Here, people are sharing letters, photographs and objects from either their museum or personal archives. For St Patrick's Day, unable to physically attend celebrations, lots of accounts posted images from parades gone by.

6. #ArtCanHelp

We at The Art Newspaper have set up this hashtag campaign to spread good news, cheerful images and helpful lists of fun activities and funding support. Tag along with us!