Good News, Seattle’s Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum to Allow Photography

EMP + Needle
Photo by papalars.

I was pleased to read this morning over at the Seattle PI that Seattle’s EMP museum will be lifting their ban on photography beginning September 26th. I’ve long wanted to visit this museum, but never have due to their photographer unfriendly policy in the past. The EMP, which is in a beautiful Frank Gehry-designed building near the base of Seattle’s Space Needle is a museum dedicated to the history of popular music and science fiction. I’ve always wanted to shoot it and imagine that the contents inside the museum would represent a photographer’s treasure trove of possible material. Flash will still be prohibited but non-flash photography will be allowed.

From the Seattle PI:

“Everyone in the museum is just thrilled this is the new policy,” said spokeswoman Maggie Skinner. “(The old policy) was kind of outdated.”

Like many museums, EMP/SFM has had a strict no-photograph rule since the Experience Music Project opened in 2000. But as more people take pictures from cell phones and small digital cameras and share them online, that rule has become almost impossible to enforce.

Not to mention a little foolish.

“From a marketing perspective, people sharing photographs is the best positive publicity you can get,” Skinner said.

The PI notes that the Seattle Art Museum is still sticking to it’s photography ban. In the article the SAM spokeswoman Nicole Griffin cites copyright concerns as the reason why they don’t allow it.

Personally I think copyright concerns as a reason for limiting photography at a museum is pretty stupid. There is no liability on the part of any museum for infringing use of photographs taken by their patrons and the vast majority of people will never use those images commercially anyways. The Seattle Art Museum should follow the lead of other major contemporary art museums like the the MOMA in New York and the SF MOMA in San Francisco, along with museums like the Met, the Chicago Art Institute and the de Young and many other well regarded fine arts museums, and drop their ban on photography as well. Banning photography in a museum is an antiquated practice designed to force patrons into spending money on overpriced books and postcards in a museums gift store rather than allowing objects and art to be shared as broadly as possible.

Anyways, nice work on the part of the EMP. The next time I’m in Seattle I’ll definitely plan on visiting.

Thanks to pjmixer for the heads up on the change in policy!

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10 Comments

  1. Martin O'B says:

    I was pretty disappointed back in June to find out that there isn’t any photography allowed in the Mt Vernon estate. I had a great time there, and as soon as I put my photos on Flickr, the National Park Service (who run the estate) emailed me to get permission to put one of my panos of the mansion on their web site!

    Obviously, I said yes (as long as I got credit on the page!).

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  3. Wonderlane says:

    Hey Thomas,
    It is not very pleasant inside the EMP, although it is very interesting. It is claustrophobic, and awkward. Thank you for letting us know however.

    I was very pleased to discover that San Francisco DeYoung Museum allows photography and limited my shots to no flash, only what I actually was interested in, and would process for public creative commons use on Flickr – sure enough people are using those shots on the Web and in publications.

    In addition to forcing patrons to purchase only the images offered, the No Photography policies are strange relics of a past where people believe the soul of the place or people is being stolen, or they have something to hide, such as for reasons of security. IM(NOT 2)HO.

  4. Clint says:

    That’s really good news that the EMP now allows photography. It can be a little difficult to explain what it is and now that there will be more photos of the exhibits, I hope it excites more people to actually visit the place. It always seemed to me that the EMP was the lonely child of all the attractions there. People usually go to see the Space Needle or Science Center. Hopefully now the EMP will get some more love.

  5. Ernie Nitka says:

    Thomas – I’ve written about how pissed I was in 2000 to find out about the no photo policy only AFTER paying the $20 entrance fee. Had a little Bessa RF and took picture anyway. Don’t like being clandestine but did it anyway. Glad to see that EMP has come to their senses.

  6. Ervin Vice says:

    This is awesome news. I’m a local, so you can bet I’ll be there on or about the 26th. As for the SAM, I pushed the envelope there once – and suffered the wrath of officious employees. I wonder if the artists themselves would have been bothered. What interests me is that photography is allowed at Tacoma’s Bridge of Glass, which is largely the artwork of Dale Chihuly. There are no copyright police down there.

  7. One thing….amateur photographers REALLY need to learn how to turn their flashes off. Well, first they need to peel off the dozen or so marketing stickers from all over the outside of their point-and-shoots and THEN they need to learn how to disarm their flashes. I’d hate for our great-grandchildren to have to look at faded artifacts just because some fool didn’t know how to mute the flash (and ended up going home with a flash glare on glass image of nothing anyway).

  8. PJ Swenson says:

    The learn to play an instrument exhibit at the EMP is incredible and worth a visit alone. I have played guitar/bass and trombone in the past, but that is the first time playing the drums made any sense.

  9. Brian says:

    It seems as if the policy is ‘only bad photographs are allowed’. I was given a hard time today by EMP security because my equipment looked ‘professional’. (5d Mk2 on a Super Clamp). The dude said that if I was using a tripod there would not have been an issue. Go figure.

  10. musicfan says:

    That is awesome. Last time I went was like forever ago!! Now I know that next time I can take pictures!!