A new Twitter bot from the New York Public Library acts as a bridge between modern visual culture and the vast archive of old drawings and photos at their disposal.
Aside from exposing visitors to types of media they might not be used to consuming, the Twitter bot has a satisfying way of connecting the current collective visual imagination to that of generations past. The heart emoji is a great example: now shorthand for love expressed, @NYPLEmoji reminds us of a time when people largely encountered the symbol as a card suit, rather than an assertion of adoration. These bursts of knowledge are addicting, as you can't help but cycle through your favorite symbols to see how they might be interpreted in another time period.
Lampasone, also a reference librarian at the NYPL, has a different theory about why @NYPLEmoji has been so successful, firing off nearly 8,000 auto-generated tweets since it's inception in mid-July. "I think people really like getting replies on Twitter," she says wryly. On top of that, she believes an emoji-centric bot is bound to deliver users pictures of stuff they like. Only a small portion of the NYPL archives are emoji-compatable so far. Says Lampasone, "This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you like the images you're seeing, come down to the library and check out more."