The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Wednesday acquired the very first collection of 176 emojis from 1999 for its permanent collection.
Created by Japanese developer Shigetaka Kurita for mobile communications company NTT DOCOMO, each original emoji was designed on a 12x12 pixel grid, according to Paul Galloway, MoMA's architecture and design specialist.
In a Medium post, Galloway noted how emojis began as a way to enhance communication on the earliest cell phones, which were simply designed and lacking in imagery.
“Shigetaka Kurita, who was a member of the i-mode development team, proposed a better way to incorporate images in the limited visual space available on cell phone screens,” Galloway wrote.
“Released in 1999, Kurita’s 176 emoji (picture characters) were instantly successful and copied by rival companies in Japan,” he added.
The acquisition is not the first time the the New York museum has recognized new media art and communication forms. In 2010, it incorporated the @ symbol into its collection.
"Just like the @, emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics, and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history," MoMA architecture and design senior curator Paola Antonelli said in a statement. "There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these."