London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has added a version of China’s WeChat (Weixin) to its collection, making the V&A the world’s first museum to collect a social media application. WeChat is the most widely used social media app in China, connecting over 963 million monthly active users worldwide.
“The WeChat app joins the V&A’s Design, Architecture and Digital (DAD) collections, which aim to represent the most influential and relevant design objects of our time. Visitors to the V&A in London can now see the WeChat application showcased on a mobile phone in Gallery 76, accompanied by digital stickers and sketches. This digital acquisition stems from the V&A’s ongoing work and research in Shenzhen, one of the most important design centers in China, as part of our curatorial work in China leading up to the opening of the V&A Gallery at Design Society, a major new design hub opening in December 2017,” reads a statement from the museum.
Tim Reeve, Deputy Director of the V&A said: “This acquisition represents a snapshot of a globally consumed social media platform. It is a fantastically important addition to our collection of digital design, reflecting the ever-changing way we communicate and consume information. This technology reflects the cutting edge research and valuable relationships we are developing in Shenzhen, one of the main centers for design in China and a leader in the wider manufacturing and creative industries in the Pearl River Delta.”
WeChat, which launched in China in early 2011, is one of the most popular social media platforms today. The app was a world-leader in integrating in-app voice messaging (audio notes) into the app, as well as providing ‘apps within apps’, setting it apart from other social media platforms.
Luisa Elena Mengoni, Head of the V&A Gallery, Shekou at Design Society and Brendan Cormier, Lead Curator of the V&A Gallery at Design Society, who led the acquisition process in China said: “Working in Shenzhen on the new V&A Gallery, we’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible impact WeChat has had on daily life and working habits in China. As a social media platform designed to quickly respond to users’ needs and lifestyles, WeChat has arguably had more impact on Chinese society than any digital design in recent history. It thus became fundamentally important for us to find a way for it to be captured at this moment in time and preserved for the future.”
The WeChat Team added “WeChat is a lifestyle, bringing new and innovative ways to connect in modern Chinese society. It has always been a goal of the WeChat team to advance society forward by blending both the real and the virtual worlds, online and offline. It’s an honour for us to bear witness and help play our part in furthering this form of advancement.”