@ MoMA

Ray Tomlinson. @. 1971. Here displayed in ITC American Typewriter Medium, the closest approximation to the character used by a Model 33 Teletype in the early 1970s. Courtesy MoMA.

Days ago, the Museum of Modern Art‘s Department of Architecture and Design announced their acquisition of a new work into the collection. The piece is one that we of the age of email and Twitter know well—the @ symbol. Since the announcement, the Internet has been abuzz with the news, mostly because its implications reach far beyond the art and design world. It’s so familiar to us all. It’s either momentous or silly, depending on your personal view, but it can’t be denied that the acquisition marks a poignant point in the history of art, in that “It relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary,” as was stated by MoMA Department of Architecture and Design Senior Curator, Paola Antonelli, in her essay on the matter of the acquisition published on March 22, 2010 by MoMA.

In her essay, Antonelli explains the history of the @, and how it came to be valued as a piece important enough for the permanent collection at MoMA. Though the symbol “dates back to the sixth or seventh century,” it’s Ray Tomilson—creator of the first email system in 1971—who elevated it “to [be a] defining symbol of the computer age,” according to Antonelli. She goes on to defend the symbol as a design, saying, “Tomlinson performed a powerful act of design that not only forever changed the @ sign’s significance and function, but which also has become an important part of our identity in relationship and communication with others,” and that “His (unintended) role as a designer must be acknowledged and celebrated by the one collection—MoMA’s—that has always celebrated elegance, economy, intellectual transparency, and a sense of the possible future directions that are embedded in the arts of our time, the essence of modern.”

What do you think about the acquisition? You can always comment below, email us at info@dailyserving.com, or let us know on Twitter: @DAILYSERVING. (Get it? Basically you can’t escape the symbol, which is now a precious work of art. Something to consider when crafting your responses.)