Selfies, Shelfies, and More: A Year of Instagramming the Newberry

2015 marked the Newberry’s first full year on Instagram. Over the past 12 months, as we’ve immersed ourselves more and more in Instagram’s lively community of libraries, librarians, archivists, and book lovers of all persuasions, we have increasingly sought out Newberry collection items and candid snapshots that might contribute to the many themed photo series cultivated by the #librariesofinstagram. And so 2015 saw our first foray into #foreedgefriday; our introduction to #tinytuesday; and our barn-burning march into #marbledmonday.

With 2015 drawing to a close and 2016 fast approaching, we thought we’d take stock of our year on Instagram by reflecting on our most-liked and most-commented-upon posts (as of December 10).

One glance at our most popular posts of the year yields an obvious trend: the outsized presence of miniature books. The genre accounts for three of our top five Instagram images measured by likes. (Curiously, not one miniature book cracked our top 10 most-commented-upon posts. Evidently, mini-book fans prefer to express their approval non-verbally!) Another observation: 6 of the 10 most-liked photos were posted within the past 2.5 months, a signal of the positive correlation between follower increases and likes.

Our top most popular post of the year featured an array of nineteenth-century publishers bindings standing at attention on the shelves in our stacks building. Whoever said you can't judge a book by its cover?

It’s trickier to identify patterns among the posts that elicited the most comments in 2015. This is perhaps due in part to an almost total lack of overlap between our two top-10 lists; only one image appears on both (our first-ever #bookfacefriday contribution). Other most-commented-upon images include an 1893 trade card espousing hand shape as a predictor of personality (it was promoting a flax thread business); the menu of a Thanksgiving dinner, served at Chicago’s Everett House Hotel in 1870, offering guests black bear, antelope, and three varieties of squirrel; a temperance pledge signed by a 7-year-old in 1861; and an archival photograph of Brookfield Zoo visitors suspiciously sizing up a penguin standing among them.

In other words, this second group is a motley one. To the extent that there’s a unifying theme, it seems to be—for lack of a better word—“quirkiness.” Put less subjectively, many of the pictures on this list are of artifacts that provide a window onto past practices and sensibilities that today strike us as humorous, quaint, or forgivably retrograde in some way.

We look forward to another year of sharing our collection and interacting with our followers on Instagram.

By Alex Teller, Manager of Communications and Editorial Services