The always-present cell phone camera in museums

So today, I was struck by just how common cell phone cameras are and the problems they could cause for museums. I was giving a tour of my historic site to a group of seventh graders. As soon as we walked into the first historic room, out came 20 iPhones and the kids started snapping pictures. Their teacher turned to me with terrified eyes and said “Are they allowed to take pictures?!” Fortunately, at my museum, we allow photography and it was no problem.

But it made me think about how other museums deal with cell phone cameras.

First of all, when I give tours to adults, they almost always ask if they can take photos before they do. But teens who grew up with cell phone cameras are used to shooting everything – it never occurred to them that a museum might NOT allow photo-taking. And since cell phones aren’t visible in the way camera bags are, a docent might not even remember to say anything about photo-taking until the cell phones come out.

How have you handled this in your museums? Have you changed your photo policies at all, since cell phone cameras don’t use the damaging flashes that traditional cameras do? Do you train your docents to remind people – and especially kids – that photos aren’t allowed? This is just another way museums are having to adapt to the 21st century. Any thoughts on this topic would be appreciated!


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