Hirshhorn Bans Selfie Sticks–and Other Smithsonian Museums Could Follow

The modern art museum is cracking down on the devices, and the rest of the Smithsonian could soon follow suit.
Hirshhorn Bans Selfie Sticks–and Other Smithsonian Museums Could Follow
If you see this goofball at the Hirshhorn, please contact Smithsonian Police. Photograph via Shutterstock.

So-called “selfie sticks”—those increasingly popular poles that allow users to extend the range of their smartphone’s camera when taking a self-portrait—may have finally met their match in the form of the Smithsonian Institution. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculplture Garden is taking a hard line against the devices, arguing that they create the same hazards to the artwork and non-stick-toting visitors as other kinds of bulky photography equipment.

The Hirshhorn’s ban came into effect this week after the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and other New York City galleries started cracking down on the dopey accessories, which seem like a really easy way to have your phone snatched.

“The question just came up and we knew our sister Smithsonian museum in New York, Cooper Hewitt, had banned them, so we needed to address the question for ourselves,” Hirshhorn spokeswoman Kelly Carnes tells Washingtonian in an e-mail. “This is a preventative measure, and it is to ensure the safety of the artwork and the visitors who come to enjoy it.”

So far, the stick ban is limited only to the Hirshhorn and the Cooper-Hewitt, but it could soon extend to the rest of the Smithsonian’s museums, which together received more than 30 million visitors in 2013.

“The reason would be that they are dangerous for visitors—and for works of art—in crowded museums,” says Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas. “We do not permit tripods and monopods, for example, because they present a tripping hazard.”

But any impending selfie-stick ban would also be a preventative measure. St. Thomas says that while there have been no reported instances of selfie stick-caused accidents in the Smithsonian’s facilities, “we are not in tourist season right now.”

While stick-assisted photos in front of Apollo 11, Bao Bao, or Julia Child’s kitchen could soon be doomed, DC’s non-Smithsonian museums are more than happy to welcome you and your nuisance pole.

“In fact, we sell them in our store,” says Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson. “Any visitor who’d like to bring a selife stick is welcome and encouraged to do so.”

Same goes for the International Spy Museum. Like the Smithsonian, the Spy Museum does not allow walk-in visitors to take photos using bulky equipment like tripods or professional monopods, but selfie sticks—which are literally monopods for your phone—are permitted.

“Those sticks are really quite popular in Europe and Asia and they’re making their way over here,” spokesman Jason Werden says. “Within our museum we just ask for common sense.”

In other words, think carefully if you really need that device to snag your selfie with Blofeld.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.