Back in November of last year, I did a video about why I thought Museums were worth their weight in reference books. At the time I also mentioned photography bans in some museums but there wasn't time to discuss that at the time. Well, today's video revisits the subject and I vent my spleen a little on why I think banning photography is a stupid idea and fundamentally undermines one of the core goals of a museum, to educate.
The video I a little bit longer than I would have liked...and this is the edited down version! If you enjoyed the video please hit the Like button, subscribe to my channel and share on social media. Until next week, keep safe, and keep rolling high!
I sort of get the ban with regard to oil paintings/tapestries and suchlike (ie flash can damage over time) but for all other stuff it is indeed daft.ReplyDelete
I can understand it from a conservation standpoint, so a ban on flash photography would be understandable. But most modern digital cameras can capture pictures in very low light levels and its rare that I have found a situation where my camera couldn't cope without flash.Delete
I always thought the main reason is that using flash photography could be harmful to the items on display (esp art museums), and over time with 1000s of people taking photographs, could become a real issue.ReplyDelete
Back in the day it could be that taking pictures was not allowed so museums could sell more slide sets in their own gift shops. Perhaps that might still be a reason - try to give people an incentive to buy the picture books or catalogues.
Another reason in busy museums could be providing a nice experience for all visitors and to keep "throughput time" under control. Nothing as annoying as having visitors that photograph every single thing and thereby causing traffic jams.
Thanks Phil. I can understand the Flash Photography issue, but most modern digital cameras can cope without flash just fine. I also understand issues around anti social behaviours especially in busy venues...but I think I say in my video that I've experienced plenty of that from people without cameras, so why target one group only.Delete
The commercial reasons are the only ones where I think the argument has some logic. However I think it is important to remember that some visitors will not be able to afford to buy the overpriced glossy books and postcards in the shop. Plenty of museums that don't have photography bans still seem to have had busy shops none the less, which undermines the commercial argument for those that do operate bans.
In some cases the museums do not own the paintings or objects on display. Loans are very common. In those cases the rights to take pictures sit with the owner (who may not permit the picture taking).ReplyDelete
For some museums there is an issue of image rights - prints of some artworks can be a lucrative revenue stream and they understandably wish to protect that although most of the evidence suggests that allowing photography and even making the images open source (Rijksmusem for example) has no impact on such sales.
The main reason for photography bans are, as noted, the damage of light to delicate paintings and fabrics. Whilst most modern cameras don't need flash many modern users of camera phones and the like don't know how to turn the flash off. A blanket ban is often preferable to having to deal with the consequences of one in ten people accidentally using flash.
The other concern is security - allowing people to easily take (and post online) images of the layout and whereabouts of your valuables is a genuine issue for some museums.
In general I think the best solution is for museums to share images of their collections for free on line - but not all museums have the resources to be able to do that.
Thanks for the comments. There are several points to address here.Delete
Regarding Copyright, I understand the implications for art and photographic works but often these represent a small proportion of the artefacts on display. I've been to plenty of museums where a private collection has been loaned to a museum and the particular cabinet they are in clearly requests no photography, without the need for a museum wide ban.
I've already discussed the commercial reasons often given and as you said there seems to be little evidence that allowing photography reduces revenue in the shops by any significant amount. And as I previously stated, one of the two key roles of museums is educational and that shouldn't be limited to those that can afford to access it.
Your point about stupid people and having to police the rules is a valid one. But if you put in a blanket ban I'd suggest staff would spend more time trying to stop surreptitious phone camera snaps than they would enforcing a no flash policy. All rules have to be enforced and the lighter the rules the less enforcement is required.
Security could be an issue but a quick look online reveals dozens of 'spy' cameras for under £20 so any potential art thief wouldn't have a hard time scouting a museum. Maybe that argument held water ten or fifteen years ago, but not any more.
Lot of people here seem to be siding with museums - lots of comments about damaging the the exhibits with flash, etc. Have you been to a military museum in the last 5 years? If any get into double figures for visitors, it's time to hang out the flags. For the most part, any such bans are just bureaucratic inertia - can't be arsed to give it serious thought so just say "no". I would happily purchase a suitable guidebook but few museums these days sell anything suitable for the over-10s. I visit lots of obscure regimental museums, often just for 1 or 2 cases (my interest is the Napoleonic Wars) and I will happily take photos of the 1 or 2 items of real note. Never had a problem because there are rarely any staff (or visitors) around.ReplyDelete
Clearly someone who views Photography bans the same way as I do! 👍Delete
I understand the arguments made for bans, but my experience (of this thankfully rare occurrence) is that the reasons given often don't hold water when scrutinised.
Call me cynical but I trongly suspect the main reason that some museums/galleries ban photogrpahy is simply so that they can flog over-priced art booka and postcards to visitors.ReplyDelete
I remain unconvinced by the "flash damages exhibits" argument. Certianly there are some fragile items that would potentially be damaged by flash photography but the vast amjority of exhibits aren't harmed.
Worth pointing out here that some museums/galleries have no problem generally with photography. As an example, the Louvre (probably the world's pre-eminent art gallery) allows photography. The Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris (which has lots of rare medieval tapestries) also allows photography.
The banning photography seems a particularly British thing.
I'm surprised , I would have thought an art gallery like the Louvre would have had a ban (glad they don't though). Photography bans are rare in the sort of museums I visit, but not unknown sadly.Delete