NYC museums banning selfie sticks

Rebecca Ungarino
Bob Berg | Getty Images

Art lovers may soon be forbidden to take that perfectly positioned selfie in front of Van Gogh's "Wheat Field With Cypresses," and they can forget about taking one in front of Monet's tranquil "Water Lilies."

Several museums in New York City, including the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, have banned the lengthy, smartphone-wielding sticks known as selfie sticks that achieve more expansive selfies for their users.

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When Cooper Hewitt reopened in December 2014 after three years of renovation, it instated a policy advising visitors to leave selfie sticks, along with tripods umbrellas, and large backpacks, in coat check, said museum spokeswoman Laurie Bohlk. Art can be damaged when visitors raise selfie sticks in the exhibition space.

Handheld photography is still welcome, but Bohlk said the selfie-stick ban helps ensure the art's safety.

"We have a lot of interactive spaces, and we have seen a huge surge in the people documenting their time here," she said. "We encourage selfies."

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Selfie sticks are compatible with smartphones and small video cameras like the GoPro and cost from $20 to $70, sold in online retailers such as Amazon and in electronic chains like Best Buy. Typically, the extension rods are used by sightseeing tourists visiting landmarks and attractions to attain a larger, more visually appealing scope in a selfie.

The Museum of Modern Art has also banned the extension sticks, and flash photography and tripods have long been prohibited.

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"We have never permitted visitors to take photos with any camera-extension devices," a spokeswoman for the museum said in a statement. However, the museum permits visitors to take still photographs for personal use.

As selfie sticks continue to gain popularity, it's likely that more museums will ask that they be shelved.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art is considering a ban, though they do allow still photography in the galleries devoted to the permanent collection. Video and flash photography is already prohibited there.