ACT News

Selfie sticks banned in some Canberra galleries

Museums and galleries fear the metre-long 'wand of narcissism' could damage priceless art.

It might be increasingly vital for the art-loving public to prove to the world that they were indeed in the presence of a great work of art.

But in Canberra, at least, you won't be able to bust out a selfie stick to do it.

The National Portrait Gallery.
The National Portrait Gallery. 

More art galleries and museums around the world are banning the ever-popular telescopic stick – a device that allows one to snap an image of oneself at up to three-arms'-lengths away – to protect priceless works of art and artefacts.

In some galleries, personal space is also becoming an issue, as the simple act of unfurling the metres-long stick risks encroaching on the space of others. 

The most recent museum to forbid selfie sticks is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which has just implemented a ban and plans to post signs, while the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Gallery in London still permit people to use them.

A spokeswoman at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra confirmed on Monday that while the sticks – referred to in the New York Times this week as "the wand of narcissism" – had not caused problems in the gallery so far, it had decided to pre-emptively disallow their use in the display spaces.


"We just can't risk damage to the artworks," she said, adding that the gallery had yet to ask anyone to refrain from using the device.

The National Gallery of Australia faced a far smaller dilemma, having only recently allowed the use of any personal cameras in the gallery spaces.

A spokeswoman there said the new policy, implemented at Christmas, allowed for the use of personal cameras, but not the potentially destructive sticks, although signs saying as much won't be posted.

She also confirmed that, despite the wild popularity, especially among the younger, hipper crowds, of the current James Turrell blockbuster, selfie-sticks had not become an issue…yet.

Meanwhile, over at the Australian War Memorial, staff had not even turned their minds to the issue, despite the looming Anzac anniversary and anticipated crowds of tourists queuing to pay their respects to Australia's war dead.

"We do allow the use of slim-line tripods," said a staff member, but admitted that selfie-sticks had yet to become a problem.

And at the National Museum of Australia, a cautiously permissive atmosphere is still in place.

"Selfie sticks are permitted at the National Museum," said a spokeswoman, before adding, "The museum reserves the right to review its policies as required."