NFTs were the fastest growing industry in 2021 with sales of $23bn up from $200m in 2020. But with this fast paced industry, these tokens have attracted a huge amount of attention for their perceived wealth and value. This has created an arena of speculative markets where people start to believe that simply minting (creating) an NFT and selling them via a platform will immediately make them huge sums of money.
For Chris Cummings, founder and CEO of Iconic Moments, this felt like the wrong approach for museum NFTs:
“I don’t believe an NFT should just be an item in the public domain and all of a sudden you list for sales of 10,000 and start selling it. There’s nothing new there and also, it’s something everyone has access to. I think an NFT should be something that you approach in the same way you approach an exhibition and it’s focused on creating or driving a story, driving impact and doing something that should stand on its own two feet.”
A Web3 Storytelling Platform
Iconic Moments is an emerging web3 platform dedicated to cultural institutions. It is looking to develop an alternative approach to NFTs, one which is more reflective of museums.
Cummings has experience in digital storytelling for cultural organizations through Pass It Down, a digital exhibition building platform he established six years ago, which creates experiences designed to engage and drive revenue. Building on the mission of Pass it Down, he raised $2m last year to develop Iconic Moments:
“Our experience means we can approach NFTs within the industry, which I think is important because we understand the goals. A big part of our work is to provide education as to what an NFT is and the positives and negatives you should know about them. There is a wrong way to sell NFTs and there is a right way to approach selling NFTs and most people are approaching it the wrong way.”
Iconic Moments is looking to build an alternative platform of cultural institutions that not only guides but educates interested institutions in this new space. This includes finding different ways of showcasing their clients’ collections and shift the focus of the space on curation, an area that Cummings notes that the space is lacking:
“If you were to try to buy or find an NFT to buy on OpenSea, the largest platform which was recently valued at $13.3bn, you are going to have to sort through more than 25 million NFTs. There’s no curation, it’s like going to Walmart on Black Friday. The other problem is when you see an NFT, all you are seeing is the price and the history, that’s it. It’s literally, ‘here’s the digital item, sell the digital item’. And for us that misses the point of what a museum is and what our responsibility is.”
Iconic Moments is looking to support their clients in this space whilst also being respectful of their collections. For example, they are working with one client who 3D scans buildings around the world that could be destroyed due to climate change, terrorism, industrialisation or war.
“We can sell NFTs to help with the preservation of that building. We are curating a community of buyers that want to support these projects, museums and cultural institutions around the world. With every NFT we are telling a story and the history of it. We can also tell the story of the museum and the social impact of your purchase, how it will help the museum and what will enable them to do – other digitalisation, other preservation, new exhibitions. No one else in the world is doing this, everyone else is just selling digital things and that’s it. And they are missing the storytelling and social impact in curation.”
At the core of Iconic Moments philosophy is the need to design through storytelling. NFTs represent an opportunity to tell a story in a new way and should be viewed as a new artistic medium and through this NFTs can be used as a way to engage users and offer a new experience of the collection.
“To me NFTs, if you approach them with storytelling and a good experience, are similar to the way you would interact with any other art. You want to do it in a way that makes an impact and makes you want to collect. That is why I think there is a right way and a ground-breaking way to approach this.”
Backed by a team of advisers consisting of technologists, museum directors, curators, artists, designers, storytellers and provocateurs, Iconic Moments was announced last September as the first NFT marketplace specifically focused on the museum and heritage industry. The goal is to help museums engage new visitors digitally and enable them to bring their exhibits to life on the blockchain and drive revenue. They aim to launch mid-2022 and are currently working with some of the world’s largest museums and institutions and every week they will highlight one museum and release NFTs from that museum to tell its story through its collection and content.
About the author – Tim Deakin
Tim Deakin is a journalist and editorial consultant working with a broad range of online publications.