New York City, where I have lived my whole life, is rich with museums. Ever since I was a young child I have been visiting museums, galleries and historic sites in my city. I would say that walking around museums is one of my favorite hometown activities, besides attending live-music concerts and sporting events. We have some rather interesting Jewish museums here, such as the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Center for Jewish History, Brooklyn's Jewish Children's Museum, the Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum, and the occasional Jewish-themed exhibits held at art museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I could write long and lovingly about these places, but this essay is about a burgeoning modern issue that museums grapple with--namely, selfie taking and (perhaps alarmingly) the selfie stick. Briefly, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself and a selfie stick is a device, a monopod, that you can use as an extension to facilitate the taking of selfies. I do not plan to purchase a selfie stick but do admit to taking selfies. And this is becoming an issue of great debate for museums... including the Jewish Museum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

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Apparently, several museums throughout NYC have banned the use of selfie sticks, and have restrictions or out-right bans on photography (especially flash photography) in order to protect their art works, and to ease the flow of visitor traffic. According to their website, the Jewish Museum does allow non-flash photography but prohibits the use of tripods. By extension, I suspect this would include the selfie stick. As for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, photography is not allowed in its galleries. At the Center for Jewish History, which has galleries as well as research libraries, cameras must be checked.


Those are the policies, folks. Now, I will admit that I have used my cell phone to snap photos in all three of these places. Please don't get me into trouble, but at the Heritage Museum, I took a photo of photograph. It showed a boy who was my late father-in-law's cousin; he was a Holocaust survivor, and we were surprised to find this picture of Norbert in the collection. I snapped the photo quickly and discretely, and won't use it for commercial purposes, just to show family members. But I did not snap a selfie in any of these museums, nor did I use a selfie stick. (Nu, anyone care to gift me with one?).

Should museums ban photography? I assume the flash can damage some paintings and drawings, but do museums enact this ban mostly to sell postcards in their gift shops? And about selfies sticks: yes, they can be annoying (although I admit I first saw them used on a ski slope and not in a museum), but are people really going to get into lots of accidents because they are thrusting their selfie sticks in front of paintings by revered artists? In my estimation, this is more about manners and mores, than about safety first. Then again, I don't work in museum management or art preservation.

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