Skip to content

Selfie Culture Has Some Art Museums Caving on Strict No-Photo Policies

Real art museums, once hard-liners against photography, are increasingly divided about what you do with your smartphone. 

Bloomberg business news
Selfie Culture Prompts Some Museums to Relax Photo Rules

Museum behavior has always been synonymous with restriction: Don’t raise your voice, don’t wear backpacks, and certainly don’t touch the art. One rule, though—don’t take photographs—has been entirely done away with by some museums, and is under reconsideration by dozens of others.

There are obvious benefits to allowing non-commercial photography. Given free rein, every visitor with an Instagram account becomes a potential publicist for the museum. But there are downsides, too. Conservation is the biggest: The jury’s still out as to whether cell phone flashes cause fading, and if a visitor is focused on taking a self portrait, there’s a higher likelihood of banging into the art. “We have plaster casts on ledges,” says Tom Ryley, communications officer of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. “If you’re taking a photograph, you might back into them by mistake.”