Today, MOMA announced the latest acquisition of the museum's Department of Architecture and Design: the @ symbol.
The @ was once an under utilized symbol until it was appropriated by American engineer Ray Tomlinson, father of email. MOMA's Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, on the museum's Inside/Out blog, dubs his "appropriation and reuse of a pre-existing, even ancient symbol—a symbol already available on the keyboard yet vastly underutilized. . . by all means an act of design of extraordinary elegance and economy."
Antonelli notes that this latest news also represents an evolution of what it means to "acquire" art for the museum: "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."
Check out more of the thinking behind @'s induction to MOMA's collection.