, Salem, MA

September 18, 2013

PEM: Photography now welcome

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — Peabody Essex Museum patrons no longer have to resist the urge to pull out their cellphones and snap photos of their favorite artworks.

The museum recently relaxed its rules to allow photography in its galleries.

The change makes sense in this digital age, said Jay Finney, PEM’s chief marketing officer. Not only does it get the museum more exposure, as patrons share images through social media, but it makes a visit to the museum less disruptive, he said.

“They’re going to take the picture one way or another,” Finney acknowledged, “and we would just like to remove the tension of being approached and asked not to do it.

“To ask (patrons) to leave their digital lives at the door ... seems kind of archaic. Sharing images and what people are experiencing is a great thing for us. ... The more people we can touch with our collection, in whatever form, the better.”

Photography is now allowed almost everywhere at PEM; the few exceptions are objects that are on loan to the museum, if the loaning agency does not allow photography.

Photos must be taken without flash. Also, anyone planning to use serious equipment — tripods, lights, etc. — must obtain permission from the museum.

“Other than that, we want people to be as comfortable as possible,” Finney said. “... We would want people to photograph our permanent collection as much as possible and share it with their friends.”

Allowing photography is a much-discussed topic in the museum community, and more museums around the country are revising their rules to allow photography, said Christine Anagnos, executive director of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

“So much of it is available in the digital universe anyway,” said Anagnos. “(Photography) is a way for visitors to engage with works of art — (but) there’s no substitute for being in the presence of work of art. A cellphone won’t change that.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.