Coping with the selfie stick

Tuesday 17th, March 2015 / 13:34 Written by
Coping with the selfie stick

Whether it’s in front of Cologne Cathedral, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin or the fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein in the Alps, wherever there are crowds of tourists there is now a growing forest of selfie sticks.

The artificial arm-extenders allow holiday-snappers to take better pictures of themselves, along with tourist sites in the background of the picture.

The problem is they are also too tempting in museums and art galleries, where a selfie stick can help you to get a whole gallery into the picture. Officials are not happy about the trend, fearing the sticks, which can sometimes stretch more than a metre in length, could lead to accidents involving the visitors and the artworks.

Dozens of museums in the United States have already banned selfie sticks, including the Hirshhorn, the Smithsonian, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Boston Museum os Fine Arts and the Getty Center in California. New York’s Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions, has also declared the sticks forbidden.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York’s Central Park justified its ban on grounds of politeness.

“It’s one thing to take a picture at arm’s length, but when it is three times arm’s length, you are invading someone else’s personal space,” Sree Sreenivasan, the chief digital officer at the Met, told the New York Times.

On St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, there is a more relaxed attitude, with selfie sticks for sale on every corner. But, if you want to enter any of the museums, you’ve got to snap them shut and put them away. They have been banned from the Sistine Chapel for some time now. Photographs are not even allowed as the flashes might damage Michelangelo’s frescoes.

The Uffizi galleries in Florence imposed a ban on selfie sticks in October.

“It would have been too dangerous for the visitors – and the artworks. Just think of all the Botticellis here,” a spokesman told dpa. The Uffizi galleries house works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.

Berlin’s museums describe selfie sticks as “unwieldy and sharp-edged objects,” which could damage the artefacts and are, therefore, not permitted inside the display areas. However, spokeswoman Anne Schaefer-Junker said visitors were encouraged to take selfies, just not with sticks.

Bavaria’s art collections do not allow visitors to have any pointy objects with them in the display rooms, and that goes for walking sticks and umbrellas, so selfie sticks are definitely taboo.

“If it is full in the halls, then a stick like that can quickly end up in the spectacles of a neighbour. They are just too likely to cause an accident,” spokeswoman Tine Nehler told dpa. In the Brandhorst Museum there is even a ban on photography after there were two accidents involving people with cameras.

The German Museum Federation says there is no unified approach to selfie sticks in the country’s 6,000 museums.

In Leipzig’s Museum of the Visual Arts (Museum der Bildenden Kuenste), a photographer recently held a seminar on how to use selfie sticks. The 10 sticks used in that seminar will be kept and used for workshops with children and young people.

Another major tourist attraction in Germany is the Autostadt, or car city, in Wolfsburg, which has more than 2 million visitors each year. A spokeswoman said they have not needed to impose a selfie-stick ban there as people are incredibly cautious around the vintage cars and so far very few have bothered taking selfies using sticks.

It is difficult to walk through London’s most popular tourist areas like Westminster owing to the forest of selfie sticks there, but most museums have not yet seen the need to ban them, apart from the British Museum, which is testing a ban at the moment, and the National Gallery. The Louvre in Paris is not considering a ban, according to a press officer, but the Palace of Versailles outside the French capital has.dpa

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