Museums are, by nature, full of rules. Don’t touch. No food or drink in the galleries. No photos. Whoaaaaa, wait a minute. No photos? Don’t museum staff know that almost everybody carries around a cell phone with a camera? And, that many of us routinely document our day-to-day activities through photographs? Yes, we who work at museums do; which is why in the last year the Denver Art Museum has been working very hard to define its philosophy around photography of the objects in our care. We want to provide visitors with a more consistent and friendly framework to allow them to snap, share, and converse on social media about artwork to their heart’s content.
The Denver Art Museum is an institution that’s committed to stimulating creativity and offering its visitors a greater connection with our world, and as such, not only allows but encourages its visitors to take and use personal, non-commercial, photographs in a way that will enhance their experience. Therefore, photography is permitted provided that it does not infringe upon the rights of the artists, lenders, or the museum and its staff, volunteers, or other visitors. Also, no flash please (the concentrated light can cause serious damage to artworks).
Why Some Artwork Can’t Be Photographed
So, why limit photography at all? Well, that’s a good question. In order to bring our visitors world-class exhibitions, the museum often borrows artworks from collectors and other museums. Since the DAM doesn’t own these objects, it also doesn’t own the copyright and therefore cannot allow photography without the owners’ permission.
Whenever possible, the museum’s staff works with its lenders to allow visitor photography, but sometimes this isn’t possible. When a photograph of an object is disallowed, you’ll find a “no photography” icon (a small camera in a circle with a slash through it) on the object’s label. And, sometimes—rarely—an entire exhibition is off limits to photography, in which case we’ll put that symbol on the gallery doors, and indicate it in the Map & Guide as well. Our staff is always happy to answer a question if you’re unsure; we’re here to help make sure you have a pleasant and positive experience.
So, the next time you’re at the DAM, don’t think twice about sharing your favorite object with your BFF on Facebook, documenting one of the stunning vistas of the Front Range from level 7 of the North Building, or using your phone’s camera to zoom in on the detail of a painting to see the brush strokes. You and your camera are welcome here.