Talk softly and carry no selfie stick.
Byline: William Grimes
In a famous lab trial, a chimp named Sultan put two interlocking sticks together and pulled down an elusive prize, a bunch of bananas hanging just out of arm's reach.
Nearly a century later, eager tourists have conducted their own version of the experiment. Equipped with the camera extender known as a selfie stick, occasionally referred to as "the wand of narcissism,'' they can now reach for flattering CinemaScope selfies wherever they go.
Art museums have watched this development nervously, fearing damage to their collections or to visitors, as users swing their sticks with abandon. Now they are taking action. One by one, museums across the United States have been imposing bans on using selfie sticks for photographs inside galleries, adding them to rules on umbrellas, backpacks, tripods and monopods.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington prohibited the sticks this month, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston plans to impose a ban. In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has been studying the matter for some time, has just decided that it, too, will forbid selfie sticks.
"From now on, you will be asked quietly to put it away,'' said Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Met. "It's one thing to take a picture at arm's length, but when it is three times arm's length, you are invading someone else's personal space.''
The personal space of other visitors is just one problem. The artwork is another. "We do not want to have to put all the art under glass,'' said Deborah Ziska, the chief of public information at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which bans selfie sticks.
Last but not least is the threat to the camera operator, intent on capturing the perfect shot and oblivious to the surroundings. "If people are not paying attention in the Temple of Dendur, they can end up in the water with the crocodile sculpture,'' Sreenivasan said.