selfie sticks
March 9, 2015

Selfie sticks banned from Smithsonian museums

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - @BednarChuck

Bad news for museum goers who want to squeeze as many historic artifacts into their selfies as possible: The Smithsonian has banned the use of selfie sticks in all of its facilities, joining a long and growing list of museums and other venues barring their use.

As reported last week by CNET and Business Insider, the use of the smartphone-extending poles that have made it easier to take quality self-portraits have been added to an existing policy which prohibits the use of monopods or tripods at the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and one zoo.

“For the safety of our visitors and collections, the Smithsonian prohibits the use of tripods or monopods in our museums and gardens,” the institution said in a statement Tuesday. “Effective today, March 3, monopod selfie sticks are included in this policy.”

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Museum officials added that the move was “a preventive measure to protect visitors and objects, especially during crowded conditions,” and that they “encourage museum visitors to take selfies and share their experiences – and leave the selfie sticks in their bags.”

Visitors will still be permitted to take pictures and record video footage of their trips to the museums (for noncommercial use only) unless otherwise posted. Members of the media who require the use of a tripod or monopod must receive special permission from the Smithsonian’s Public Affairs Office and be escorted by a museum staff member while on the grounds.

Kind of late to jump on the bandwagon

In December, the Cleveland Museum of Art banned the use of selfie sticks without obtaining prior permission, adding it to a list that includes tripods, monopods, pens, markers, charcoal and other art materials. Museum officials told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that the move was made to protect artwork, to protect visitors and to provide an optimal visiting experience.

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“We love people photographing the experience” of touring the museum, Aaron Petersal, the museum's director of visitor experience, told the newspaper. However, when using a selife stick, you “may not be paying attention to other people around you, so there's the potential of hitting someone else” – or one of the priceless works of art in the museum’s collection.

Selfie sticks are also banned in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Likewise, they are prohibited in the Seattle Museum of Art, which also extended an existing ban on tripods to apply to the up to 10-foot-long poles for safety reasons and to protect the artwork.

“If someone had a selfie stick and they were getting a little overzealous, they could easily damage our pieces,” Wendy Malloy, Director of Public Relations for the Seattle Museum of Art, told KOMO News on Friday. “There's also the obnoxious factor.”

Going international

On Sunday, The Telegraph reported that The Louvre and the Pompidou Centre in France are also considering bans, as the former has become especially concerned about the devices being used in close proximity to iconic works of art such as the Mona Lisa.

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“Nowhere do the authorities view selfie sticks more unfavorably than in South Korea,” the UK news outlet added. In that country, the sale or use of unregistered selfie sticks is illegal and can be punished with a fine of up to $25,000 because the Bluetooth technology used in some of the handheld mounts could interfere with telecommunications signals.

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