Why You Won’t See Any Photos from The Neon Museum on Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection and Why They Don’t Want Their Images Shared on Flickr
I just got back a rather disappointing email from the Neon Musuem in Las Vegas. I had written to the musuem to inquire about taking photographs of some of their neon signs this past weekend while in Las Vegas. I’m not going to link to the museum. You can find them on Google if you want.
For those of you who don’t know what the Neon Museum is, it’s a boneyard of sorts of many of the old Las Vegas neon signs. It’s a place that these signs go to die and the non-profit Neon Museum states their mission as “to collect, preserve, study and exhibit neon signs and associated artifacts to inspire educational and cultural enrichment for diverse members of our international community.”
Unfortunately their policy with regards to photography does not seem to fit with their stated mission.
My interest in shooting the Neon Musuem was simply to share in a non commercial way my interpretation of neon art with the rest of the world. I already have a decent size collection of neon signs and images up on Flickr and I was hoping to add to my collection with some historically significant signs from the Neon Musuem. Because I value the preservation work that someone like the Neon Museum is doing I even offered to make a donation to the museum in conjunction with approval to shoot some of their pieces. I mentioned that my desire was non commercial and simply to promote the museum via my blog and flickr.
What I got back from them was something which I think runs contrary to their mission statement:
“Although many people have taken it upon themselves to post photos of the Boneyard on Flickr and other photo-sharing websites, we ask that no one do so. We are an educational facility first and foremost – and therefore do not allow stock photography. Photos that are uploaded to sites such as Flickr are not copy protected, and therefore are able to be lifted and used by unscrupulous people. As a result, we are trying to limit the number of images from our collection that are hosted on the web.”
This is wrong and backward thinking. As a non profit that says it’s mission is to exhibit their neon signs and who specifically mentions an international community, to restrict the exposure of their collection this way flies contrary in the face of both promoting and exhibiting their work internationally.
Rather than let the whole world explore the historically significant collection (did I mention I found out about the musuem in the first place by perusing shadowplay’s excellent set of neon sign images on Flickr), the Neon Museum would seek to lock their collection up lest (god forbid) some unscrupulous person dare use one of their images somehow. I’m not sure how potential unscrupulous users outweighs letting an entire international community (it’s not always easy for everyone from China or India to get to Las Vegas) appreciate their collection and build awareness and publicity for the good work that they are doing via the web.
I would hope that the Neon Museum would reconsider their policy of excesively protecting their images (really signs that in many regards probably most appropriately belong to all of us as historical artifacts of past generations). It is an unfriendly position for them to take and it is not at all what a public, non profit museum ought to be about. I fail to see how when the de Young Museum, with even greater valued art and artifacts, and the Oakland Musuem of California can open up their galleries for public photography that someone like the Neon Museum insists on being so unfriendly towards the very constituents, promoters and donors that they should instead be courting. Especially as neon is particularly well suited for photography I find this to be a shame indeed.