The great selfie stick debate

(CNN) – As museums and tourist attractions aim to find more ways to socially engage visitors, a popular accessory has become a sticking point.

When spring comes to Washington, more tourists do too.  Among the most popular destinations, the free Smithsonian museums, like air and space, and natural history.  But a recent update to visitor policies is getting some attention. An existing ban on tripods and monopods inside now “extends” to those popular selfie sticks.

“We wanted to make sure they were included in the policy, so that our visitors can have a safe but enjoyable visit, and we also keep our objects safe,” John Gibbons, Smithsonian press secretary said.

The recent selfie stick boom has led to similar policies at London’s National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York Smithsonian press secretary John Gibbons says it’s about protecting a museum’s collection, “You have paintings on walls, you have objects on pedestals, that are all valuable and fragile and we want to make sure that they stay safe. They’re the reason why the people are visiting in the first place.”

The selfie stick may not be welcome inside the museums here at the Smithsonian, but its ignited a debate among other museums, as they strive to find ways to stay socially relevant, and engaged.

“More and more museums are saying, we welcome your photographs, it’s a way for you to engage with the art, and share it socially,” Elizabeth Merritt is founding director of the Center for the future of Museums at the American Alliance of Museums.

She says for those museums that have only recently come around to allowing photography, the selfie stick, may be a bit of a stretch, “Is it safe for the paintings and the sculptures, and is it safe for the other visitors? And the emerging consensus is, no, it’s not safe to have somebody waving a stick around,” Merritt continued.

At Washington’s Newseum visitors see some of history’s greatest shots, and if inspired to snap their own, spokesman Jonathan Thompson says selfie sticks are welcome here, “We have staff on every floor of the museum that’s always monitoring visitors and making sure that everyone’s safe, so I think that’s really our first line of defense in terms of selfie sticks.  Back at the Smithsonian, they stress they’re not being anti-social.

Copyright CNN 2015

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