Michigan State University

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Through objects from the MSU Museum’s historical collections a “pre-history” of the most social of images is featured, the selfie, in “#me: from Silhouettes to Selfies.”

This exhibit was inspired by the arrival of the MSU Museum’s new Curator of History, Shirley T. Wajda, who has researched the history of photography from the perspectives of technological advancements and societal impacts.

“While she is still learning about the breadth and depth of the collections and how they can be used in new ways for research and teaching, we challenged her to select some aspect of our collections that stood out to her, and to tell that story, ” explains Lora Helou, MSU Museum acting director.

The ubiquitous selfie, Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 “word of the year,” has a long and evolving history. “#me” starts with 18th century silhouettes traced by hand and made from black paper that soon advance to a portable “machine,” called a physiognotrace, that could easily and cheaply produce silhouette profile portraits in one short sitting. The exhibit goes on to explore other historic forms of photographic self-portraiture, including images produced by the photobooth and Polaroid camera, as well as consider the implications of the selfie as a technological innovation that is shifting the use of photographs from memorialization to instantaneous communication and as a social object that is redefining community.

Visitors are encouraged to be social and take their own selfie while visiting the MSU Museum and post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag, #memsumuseum.

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