Courtney B. Wilson, Your Photo Policy at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum Sucks
Saw the photo to the left on Flickr today. It’s the posted photo policy of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum’s Photography Policy which reads in part: “photographs are permitted for personal use only and are not to be published anywhere (including personal web sites) without the expressed written consent of the Museum. Professional photography is strictly prohibited without the written permission of the Chief or Senior Curators.”
Which is a really stupid photo policy for plenty of reasons. First off, this policy is entirely inconsistent with the stated “mission statement” of this non-profit museum. If you look at the musuem’s mission statement it reads that their mission is, in part, to: “preserve the physical legacy and experience of American railroading, and to interpret and present its history to the widest possible audience.”
Now, if you are really trying to present the history of this museum to the widest possible audience, then why prohibit users from posting images of the museum on the internet. If by the “widest possible audience” you mean people in other countries, etc. it would seem to me that posting images from this museum on the internet would be one way of sharing this. To tell visitors that they can take photos but not share photos of the museum online in non-commercial venues like blogs and flickr is in direct conflict with the museum’s stated mission statement.
What’s more, it’s a totally *stupid* policy that is entirely unenforceable. Here for instance is one such set of images taken from the B&O Museum online on Flickr. There are tons more on Flickr as well. Now what is the B&O Railroad Museum going to do about that? Are they going to go sue some flickr user? And sue them for what? They don’t own copyright to the locomotives in their collection.
It seems to me that this musuem’s policy is simply another example of a museum who lets some power hungry curator draft some totally daft policy that is both unenforceable and in direct conflict with it’s mission statement. Rather than trying to prohibit images from their museum from daring to show their presence on the super evil internet, The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum should embrace non-commercial use of imagery from their museum and see if for what it could be, valuable PR towards encouraging people to come visit the museum. Unless their museum really does just totally suck that bad and they are afraid that if people see what it’s like online that they wouldn’t dare pay the price of admission.
Now I have no plans on going to Baltimore any time soon. But I tell you. If I tell you if/when I do ever visit Baltimore I’d either skip this museum entirely or possibly just go and then post my photos against they’re stated policy anyways.
Courtney B. Wilson is the director of this museum. If you think a museum that doesn’t allow you to post images of the museum online sucks, feel free to reach out to him. There’s a group forum thread on this topic at Flickr here.
In the meantime if you’d like to look at some photos of a train museum, check out my collection of images from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. It’s a great museum that I’d highly recommend, with a much more sane photo policy.