Comedy & Heritage: A perfect match

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(Celebrities) Collaboration @Internationalmountmakersforum and @Fun_Conservators (2nd March 2023)

By Mariana Escamilla Martínez and Pierre-Luc Brouillette

In this article we describe how our social media channels came to be and how we have increased our reach to illustrate how our collaboration has been fruitful in various ways with the hope of helping you with your own online collaborations.

In a serious field like the conservation and exhibition of cultural property, conservators and mountmakers play a major role that comes with great responsibilities; we are sometimes under immense pressure, and we all experience similar issues and challenges. Both conservators and mountmakers already had several online channels to discuss our professional communities, but we wondered, how could we detach ourselves from the serious aspects and allow ourselves to laugh?

Comedy can reach the widest audience. Comedy unites. Comedy produces laughs and happiness—so does heritage, right?

The “meme”, the most viral phenomenon of the last decade, are internet-based comedic imagery. The term, however, was first introduced quite a while back. In 1973 Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins described it in his book, The Selfish Gene: “meme [is a] unit of cultural information spread by imitation. The term meme [comes] from the Greek mimema, meaning ‘imitated’.” A term worth conserving—a task our generation has taken seriously—the meaning of “meme” has developed in the recent years into “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations.”

Saint Hoax (a well-known Instagram meme creator) “defines a meme as a piece of media that is repurposed to deliver a cultural, social or political expression, mainly through humor”. These images rely on the viewers identifying with the content which imitates real life situations. The meanings are flexible depending on the viewer’s perspective.

The cultural heritage sector, as we are all aware, includes several sub-sets of highly specialised professionals with particular sets of skills and interests. Targeting meme content that relates to our professions, both the @InternationalMountmakersForum and @fun_conservators have managed to jointly gather more than 20K followers within the last couple of years. The reach of these profiles has greatly increased this past year, in large part due to our fruitful collaborations through social media as well as during professional conferences.

The two accounts are managed by the authors of this paper—we are conservators and mountmakers passionately dedicated to our jobs as well as to encouraging our colleagues to smile, laugh and share our content during their lunchbreaks.


Posting conservation work involves a high degree of responsibility. Conservators often worry about sharing too much information about their treatments with the public, while also worrying we have explained too little about the decision-making behind certain treatment steps, which could cause our actions to be interpreted incorrectly. In short, we as professionals often have a fear of being criticized.

Fun_Conservators was created as a response to these strict unwritten regulations. The profile was created in 2018 by Sarah Vortel (Freelance Paintings Conservator) and Mariana Escamilla (Paintings Conservator, Redivivus). The goal behind the content was to unite conservators by showing them posts that members of the profession, from all over the world could identify with, from complicated retouching to that nervous feeling that you might have accidentally left your hot spatula on during a long weekend. The profile grew slowly during the first few months, however, as soon as we began creating memes, the traffic on the profile started increasing dramatically. So much so, that fellow conservators started sending in their own memes. Soon enough Paul Kisner (Emerging Paintings Conservator) started sending very successfully fun memes and has since joined the team, now an official part of Fun Conservators.

The International Mountmakers Forum is the social media profile of the biggest professional organization of mountmakers worldwide. Sharing news about the organization, including congresses and meetings in order to unite the field, was one of the main goals of IMF’s social media channels. Nonetheless, followers increased after the profile started posting hilarious content involving memes and comedy. The profile is managed by content creator Pierre-Luc Brouillette (Museology Technician, MNBAQ), Shelly Uhlir (Exhibits Specialist, Mountmaker, National Museum of the American Indian), and Laura McClure (Visual Information Specialist Exhibit Production, National Museum of American History).


Fun Conservators and The International Mountmakers Forum joined forces after not only discovering that our social media accounts had parallel senses of humour, but also realising how intertwined our professional job descriptions are. We are connected by our passion for preserving objects for future generations, we are concerned and careful about the materials we bring into close contact with cultural heritage objects and we aim for reversibility and preservation. Indeed the discovery of each other’s online profiles was instigated by the mutual sense of humour that we both enjoy and identify with. Through the expanding collection of posts and inspiration found on both profiles, we noticed that our followers have so much in common within the closely-knit spheres of conservation, art handling and mountmaking.

Our accounts have collaborated in recent months on several posts.


Both social media profiles were created in order to post fun content that shows the shared struggles and thoughts of our fellow professionals. While our content initially focused on personal struggles, it soon included memes that sometimes criticise or create social commentary.

“Often, memes can be quite exclusive, as only people who are familiar with the origin of the meme will understand it...” said Kit Chilvers, CEO of Pubity Group. While the posts from International Mountmakers Forum and Fun Conservators could easily slip into a level of specificity which could make our memes quite exclusive, both profiles are gradually reaching different audiences and groups such as art historians, art handlers, art transporters, gallerists and other museum professionals. This creates professional outreach with colleagues in adjacent fields; what are cultural heritage professionals thinking about or struggling with and how are we all connected? The outreach generated has put us in touch with other meme creators outside of conservation and mountmaking with whom we are planning future collaborations.


Are you trying to grow your social media presence? These are tips we have gathered from our own experience:

· Define a goal and create content targeted for the audience you want to reach
· Build up your follower base by creating structured and continuous content
· Engage with your followers by asking questions, making interactive posts or by letting them contribute in creating your content (i.e., “Caption This!...”)
· Post about recent topics or news to engage and instigate dialogue (i.e., natural disasters, international stories, public figures or celebrities, etc.)
· Check your profile stats by registering as a professional account: This allows you to check peak hour engagement of your followers as well as other interesting data points such as the growth, nationalities, age and gender of your followers
· Once you have created a base, find collaborators with similar yet not identical content and follower bases: touch base and create collaborations


Mariana Escamilla Martínez is a paintings conservator at Studio Redivivus in The Hague. She graduated in 2019 with a master's degree in conservation and restoration of cultural heritage from the Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences, where she also obtained a BA in conservation of cultural heritage with a specialization in easel paintings, polychrome objects and Modern art. The research of alternative materials and tear mending procedures, as well as technical documentation of artworks, are amongst her current professional interests.

Pierre-Luc Brouillette studied at Université Laval where he was first attracted to the metal workshop. He has worked at the Musée de la civilisation and has now been at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec for eleven years, during which time he has worked on several major exhibitions, such as Art and Nature in the Middle Ages, The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 and Giacometti.

(Read the article and see all the memes in the June-July 2023 "News in Conservation" Issue 96, p. 26-30)

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Both conservators and mountmakers already had several online channels to discuss our professional communities, but we wondered, how could we detach ourselves from the serious aspects and allow ourselves to laugh?
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