New York's Museum of Modern Art has announced the addition of the original 176 emoji set to its collection of "humble masterpieces".
The set of small picture characters was gifted to the museum by Japanese national carrier Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT DoCoMo).
Created by designer Shigetaka Kurita for the company's i-mode mobile internet platform in 1999, the pictograms have developed to become part of text language used across the world.
"These 12 x 12 pixel humble masterpieces of design planted the seeds for the explosive growth of a new visual language," said MoMA.
"Kurita's emoji (picture characters) were instantly successful and copied by rival companies in Japan," the museum added. "Twelve years later, when a far larger set was released for Apple's iPhone, emoji burst into a new form of global digital communication."
The emojis will form part of a collection that the museum calls "humble masterpieces" – which also includes the Post-it Note and the Bic Cristal pen.
The items were first brought together and displayed for an exhibition of the same name in 2004, organised by senior architecture and design curator Paola Antonelli.
"It is important to stay relevant and to look at museums as the R&D of society," she told Dezeen in an interview about the exhibition. "Because curating design is tightly connected to culture and technology, my curatorial stance has had to evolve."
MoMA has since acquired more pieces for the humble masterpieces collection, like a set of DIY electronics products.