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no photoTake this as a rant, if you will, but its intent is to be an open letter to the directors and curators of small museums that forbid visitors to take photos.

I'm a fan of small museums; there should be many more of them.

Often, they are the way in which we learn about events, movements, people whose stories would be lost, or lost in a larger setting. At best, they explain in a local and personal way how things developed in a particular place or time, and how the events of the larger world were reflected locally. At least, they offer us objects and images from which to construct our own, if imperfect, understanding.

The small museums are not always easy to find; they may be in out-of-the-way towns or districts, lack the funds for promotion, or have limited spaces and hours. Some of the most interesting ones I have found have been almost accidental, or the product of my developing determination to find them.

Quite a few of the ones I've found and visited have come to my attention not through their own efforts, but because someone has visited and posted a blog, a photo on social media, or a comment. The attention-getter is usually the image, and that is what many museums are depriving themselves of by not allowing visitors to take pictures.

TravelGumbo members have published articles here on many small museums, and even essays on the importance and joy of small museums. TravelGumbo is a consciously image-forward site; the pictures tell the story or help tell it, and help send readers to visit museums. And we're by far not the only place that potential visitors and supporters find out about these museums.

So, why don't the ones that ban photos take a long, hard think about that?

Obviously, I'm not suggesting there be no rules about photos; among my own gripes about museum behavior are people taking pictures of themselves in front of pictures or blocking the view of others. As well, there are situations where some displays may be too delicate or barred by copyright.

But in general, why is it so hard for some museums to realize how much they could benefit by allowing their visitors to become their publicists? I wish I knew!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations


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Last edited by Paul Heymont
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