It’s Sunday evening and I don’t feel like talking about all matters legal with work looming on Monday morning, so I’m resurrecting an old tradition. From here on in Sunday is to be a day of reflection…and possibly irritation.
To kick off a long standing annoyance the subject of photography in Irish museums and galleries. Now the husband and I are recently back from a short break in Bordeaux. There being not a lot to do in the town when you’re there doing nothing we ended up in the Musee d’Aquitaine. Turns out that the history of the region goes back to Neanderthal times and Bordeaux itself has a history going back to the Romans.
Being a photographer, the husband had the camera with him and happily snapped away throughout the museum. When we got back to Dublin we had a few days before either of us were back in work so we decided to go to the National Museum to have a look at the bog bodies (as you do). As soon as you walk into the place there are signs forbidding photography of all kinds which just doesn’t seem very friendly.
After watching several tourists being barked at for trying to photograph the vaulted ceiling of the museum building we made some enquiries. What’s the story? You can walk into a museum in London or Paris or Prague and whip out a camera without a peep from the security guards but here in Ireland you need special permission to photograph the exhibits.
Over the years we’ve come up against the problem several times – the husband usually has a camera somewhere about his person – and it’s always the same. The one thing that isn’t the same is the explanation.
The OPW, apparently forbid photography because their properties keep appearing on EBay being flogged to unsuspecting Americans (allegedly). The reason we were once given in the Natural History Museum was that it interfered with the sale of post cards. In the National Museum last week we were told it was a copyright issue. Apparently the 1928 Copyright Act made the National Museum the property of every man, woman and child in Ireland, all of whom would have to give permission before people could take photos. Well it’s an interesting one anyway.
If you ask me it smacks of pure mean spiritedness but if there’s a relatively logical explanation I’d love to know it. I understand banning flash photography when you have light sensitive exhibits but all cameras?
Even if there is a logical reason why photography is banned it seems like a daft rule. If people are coming to Ireland from all over the world, used to taking photos to remember their trip it just doesn’t make sense. Quite apart from anything else, two out of the three reasons we’ve been given are tied to a rather unattractive suspicion of the rest of mankind and an officiousness that’s just embarrassing. I’d almost rather it was down to simple meanness.
I know it’s possible to make an appointment to come in and take photographs, certainly in the National Museum on Kildare Street, but last thing I heard, you had to give a good excuse.
If anyone out there knows by this prohibition is they please let me know. Otherwise lets get the revolution started and all turn up armed with our Polaroids. It might not be a big issue in a world economy that seems to be going bang right now but it’s the little things that count…and if the economy does do bang we’ll all have a lot more time to wander round museums…and at times like that a hobby is a good idea!
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