MoMA Acquires the @ Symbol

Posted on June 28, 2010

MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design announced earlier this year that it acquired the @ symbol into its collection.

The acquisition of @ takes one more step. It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that -cannot be had-because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747's, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @-as art objects befitting MoMA's collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA's collection also apply to these entities.

In order to understand why we have chosen to acquire the @ symbol, and how it will exist in our collection, it is necessary to understand where @ comes from, and why it's become so ubiquitous in our world.

MoMA says some linquists believe the @ symbol goes back as far as the 5th or 6th century. MoMA's collection shows the @ symbol used in a 1536 letter from an Italian merchant. It has certainly become extremely useful during the Internet era.

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