Selfie sticks banned in Taiwan museums

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Four major museums in Taiwan have jumped on the bandwagon to outlaw the use of selfie sticks – stuffily called ‘camera extension poles’ in some quarters – by visitors to photograph themselves in front of displays in their galleries and halls.

The National Palace Museum (NPM) and Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) in Taipei, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (NTMFA) in Taichung and the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (KMFA) have acted to expressly prohibit the use of the hand-held devices to shoot pictures with smartphones and cameras. The four museums are joining a world-wide movement to ban the use of the devices, citing policies enacted by museums and galleries in Europe and the Americas to protect the safety of exhibits and maintain the quality of the visitor experience in their venues.

The NTMFA posted a notice at its entrance March 13 stating, "In order to maintain the quality and safety of visits to exhibitions, please put away all equipment for taking self-portraits before entering the museum." Educational outreach team leader Wang Wan-ru explains that although in the past visitors have been allowed to use cameras and smartphones to take pictures in outdoor areas of the museum, recently more and more people have been using selfie sticks to take such photos and museum staff are concerned the long wands might touch and damage works of art on display.. Currently NTMFA bans the use of photography equipment including selfies, tripods and flash attachments, throughout the whole museum.

At the NPM, photography is not allowed in indoor display areas of the museum in order to protect vulnerable paintings and other artifacts, especially the NPM’s many ancient objects. In addition, the limited space and large crowds in many galleries mean that posing for photographs can easily create problems and disputes. The museum does, however, permit photography in most of its outdoor areas.

The TFAM expressly prohibited the use of selfie sticks earlier this month. Acting museum director Chiang Yu-fang notes that announcements on the museum website and at the entrance and ticket counter of the museum all inform visitors of the new policy notices.

In Kaohsiung, the KMFA imposed the ban after organizers found that visitors shooting videos and taking pictures of themselves in the "Yayoi Kusama" special exhibition were impacting the quality of the visitor experience and creating concerns about possible injuries or damage.

At the National Museum of History (NMH), curator Chang Yu-teng says that at present the museum does not expressly ban taking photographs. Chang explains that exhibits in the NMH are largely displayed inside glass cases to guard against damage from accidental touching, museum officials do not rule the possibility that the use of equipment such as selfie sticks might be outlawed if it is seen as a problem.

Similarly, staff at the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art note that their viewing spaces are small, and selfie sticks have been banned in certain exhibitions where they might interfere with other visitors moving through the display areas or when works on display might be subject to damage.

The TFAM’s Chiang explains that the museum is not aggressively enforcing its policy, relying on visitors to act responsibly while viewing exhibits and displays. She noted that visitors are already not allowed to carry umbrellas in the museum for basically the same reason and adds that she hopes visitors will respect the rules and refrain from any actions that might possible undermine the quality of the visitor experience for others.