Pinterest: The World’s Catalog of Ideas


Idit Kohan-Harpaz & Mia Torres

Pinterest is an application that brings the idea of the “inspiration board” to the digital world. Before Pinterest, one might physically pin things like magazine and newspaper clippings, photographs or small objects to a wall, corkboard, or even their refrigerator door. You might have flipped through National Geographic to find images of animals and nature, or Glamour Magazine to find fashion inspiration.
Now, with the ubiquity of the Internet, Pinterest allows you to gather all these things from the Internet or from other Pinterest users to save for later in collections you’ve created and curated yourself. Pinterest lets you get inspired, brainstorm, share, like, comment, and follow other users.
(Image source:


Founder:                     Ben Silberman, Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp
Status:                        Privately Owned
Launched:                   December 2009
HQs:                           San Francisco, CA
Staff:                          500 Employees
Worth:                        $14.3 Billion CAD (2017)4
Active Users:               100 Million per month
Registered:                  176 Million users
Demographic:              85% Female (42% of all women in US)5


With Pinterest, you can pin nearly anything you find online like photos, videos, articles, recipes, how-to’s, travel tips, fashion trends, etc. Pinterest allows you to gather all these things from the internet or from other Pinterest users to save for later in collections you’ve created and curated yourself. Pinterest allows you get inspired, brainstorm, research, share, like, comment, and follow other users!


Pinterest allows you to search for content based on a keyword or key phrase. It also suggests similar topics based on other common searches.


PINNING – choosing and saving a resource or content from anywhere on the internet. Some browsers will include “pin” icons that let you automatically pin to your account without opening the Pinterest website. Phone companies also allow you to integrate pinterest into your phone so you can pin photos you have one your phone.
REPINNING – Pinning someone else’s pin to one of your own boards.
SAVING & LIKINGSave other users’ pins to look at later, or simply ‘like’ them as you browse.







All these institutions use Pinterest as a marketing tool to achieve their unique agendas and to promote public interest in their institutions. We looked at a number of specific institutions from around the world, and we found that their Pinterest boards are generally small selections representing a cross section of their entire collections, organized around themes, concepts, specific exhibitions, or locations.
For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has created a Pinterest board called “Met Selfies” on which it has posted various self-portraits, in a variety of mediums, it has within its collection. It is interest that such a well-known and establish institution has adopted the colloquial term “selfie”, relating it to traditional self-portraits in order to relate to current trends and a younger audience.
The British Library has a board called Manuscript Mondays where in posts images of manuscripts from within its collection, riffing on the popular hashtag trends of “throwback Thursday”, “flashback Friday”, “Woman crush Wednesday”, etc. This brings content that may not normally be interesting to or sought out by the average person, but makes it relatable in small, easy to digest, trending topics.



As you might expect, copyright is a big issue with online content. Pinterest is no different, and received much backlash around 2012 for (unintentionally) allowing users to violate copyright policies. Since then, it has fine-tuned its policies and distilled the information into easily digestible “More Simply Put” blurbs. However, even though Pinterest covers its rear end for the most part, many aspects of copyright are inherently abstract.



Many sources advise that users only pin what they own, content from websites with the “pin it” sharing button, content that other users have uploaded directly to Pinterest, content that falls under public domain, or content that allows for sharing under a Creative Commons license.
“Creative Commons helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world. We unlock the full potential of the internet to drive a new era of development, growth and productivity.”




If someone uploads content that doesn’t belong to them (violates copyright), and another person re-pins this, are they violating the copyright too?
A museum has a collection of photographs to which it holds the copyright. It pins one of these images to its account and that pin gets re-pinned 1,000 times and generates $10,000 in ad revenue for Pinterest.
  • Does this violate the artist’s/museums copyright terms?
  • Does the amount of (potential) exposure the museum receives from these pins outweigh the need/desire to claim copyright infringement? What if the institution is a Gallery? Or Archive?
  • Does it matter if the photograph is contemporary or if the photographer is still alive?

– Idit & Mia



Pinterest. “Introducing Guided Search.” 2017. Accessed February 3, 2017.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 2017. s.v “Pinterest.” Accessed February 3, 2017.
Digital Image. “Bild Zu Everything Is Illuminated (2005).” September 12, 2005. Accessed February 3, 2017.
Smith, Craig. “270 Amazing Pinterest Statistics.” Accessed February 1, 2017.
Pinterest. “Copyright.” 2017. Accessed February 5, 2017.
Caines, Matthew. “How to Use Instagram and Pinterest for Your Arts Organisation.” The Guardian (The Guardian), December 11, 2013.
De Jager-Loftus, Danielle P. and Abby Moore. 2013. “#gathercreateshare: How Research Libraries use Pinterest.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 18 (3-4): 265-279. doi:10.1080/10875301.2013.840714.
Archambault, Michael. “Photographer Suing Pinterest in Federal Court over Repeated Copyright Infringement.” May 27, 2015. Accessed February 5, 2017.
Brundige, Ellen. “Is Pinterest a Haven for Copyright Violations?” April 28, 2016. Accessed February 5, 2017.


3 comments for “Pinterest: The World’s Catalog of Ideas

  1. jpascoe
    February 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Just curious are there any strategies to prevent pinning content off of a site? I notice there are “pinning” buttons to make it even easier to pin images from sites onto personal boards. I could see this being a problem for institutions publishing online collections that might have strict copyright.

  2. Tori Masters
    February 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    After listening to your presentation and reading your blog, we felt much more well-acquainted with the intricacies of Pinterest, “the world’s catalog of ideas.” In terms of institutions using Pinterest as a social media platform we were surprised to see that museums such as the AGO had only 2,324 Pinterest followers compared to their 64,100 followers on Instagram. The trend continues: Toronto Public Library has 2,848 Pinterest followers to their 8,346 Instagram followers, while Stephen Bulger Gallery has 2,082 followers on Instagram and does not have a Pinterest account. We wondered why institutions are not as active on Pinterest as they are on other their other accounts, especially when Pinterest is becoming a marketing beast compared to other social media platforms.

    One reason we thought Pinterest may not be as effective for institutions is due to the platform’s low user interactions and lack of virtual community. In the article “Dreaming out loud on Pinterest,” the authors conducted a study of 20 pinboards with an amassed 2,291 pins. All images were secondary content (no original or personal photographs) and were accompanied by little to no text. The authors noticed that “…activity on Pinterest does not appear to be other-oriented: for the most part, users are not interacting with one another within Pinterest, but with themselves”[1]. As we argued in our Instagram presentation, we believe that a driving force behind institutions engaging in social media is an attempt to build an online community and engage with their followers, which is difficult to achieve on Pinterest. Pinterest is more aligned with consumerism than community: as Avi Salzman noted “Pinterest has increasingly added “buyable pins” that let users purchase items they see.”[2] This added feature allows Pinterest to act not only as a collection but also as a virtual marketplace. This buyer-to-seller relationship continues to separate Pinterest from other user-to-user platforms.

    “Dreaming out loud on Pinterest” also examines how Pinterest, as a virtual translation of the scrapbook, has a different temporal relationship with its content and users than the traditional scrapbook. As the authors point out, “[w]e found most of the pinboards examined to be future-oriented, with titles such as ‘When We Have Kids’… [t]his contrasts sharply with the temporal orientation of traditional paper scrapbooks, which provide tangible mementos of a concrete, realised past”[3]. Museum collections are comprised of and reflect the past, while pinboards seem to project an idealized and aestheticized future. In this sense, perhaps it is more important for institutions to maintain a presence on Pinterest so that they can have their content and collections pinned and repinned (“Oh! I love this Picasso @MoMA, it would look great in my dream chalet”).

    -Emily and Tori

    [1] Barbara J. Phillips, Jessica Miller, and Edward F. Mcquarrie, “Dreaming out loud on Pinterest: New forms of indirect persuasion,” International Journal of Advertising 33, no. 4 (2015): 641. doi:10.2501/IJA-33-4-633-655.
    [2] Avi Salzman, “Should Google and Facebook Be Worried About Pinterest?,” Barron’s Next, January 13, 2017, accessed February 08, 2017.
    [3] Barbara J. Phillips, Jessica Miller, and Edward F. Mcquarrie, “Dreaming out loud on Pinterest: New forms of indirect persuasion,” International Journal of Advertising 33, no. 4 (2015): 644. doi:10.2501/IJA-33-4-633-655.

  3. emily1.miller
    February 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Also, in BREAKING NEWS!:

    “(RNN) – New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, often called the Met, has made 375,000 public domain artworks available online for free use to anyone.

    The met has also announced new partnerships with sources like Wikimedia, the Digital Public Library of America and Pinterest.”

    So new partnerships with Pinterest!? Interested to know more…

    From: The Metropolitan Museum of Art gives open access to 375,000 images.

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