Selfie sticks banned by some Montreal museums

For security reasons and peace of mind, Montreal museums are starting to ban the use of selfie sticks.

'Wand of narcissism' a danger to art and artifact exhibitions

Sandy Johal uses a selfie stick to take a picture of herself in Times Square in New York, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. Several Montreal museums are banning selfie sticks in order to protect their art and artifacts. (Seth Wenig/AP)

Montreal museums are beginning to ban selfie sticks in the exhibitions.

The camera extender known as a selfie stick makes it easier to get a flattering self-portrait.

But the “wand of narcissism,” as it is sometimes called, is not welcome in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts nor at Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum.

“Mainly it's because of the space in the museum and to protect the artifacts, the objects and to be fair to other visitors also," said Claude-Sylvie Lemery, head of communications at Pointe-à-Callière.

Lemery said their exhibition rooms are already small and if people use the sticks, it could be dangerous.

The MMFA considers the selfie stick intrusive and potentially dangerous for the security of the works of art.

Elisabeth Butikofer from the MMFA told Radio-Canada it wants to make sure the museum is a safe, peaceful place.

"This is a new phenomenon and even if it’s not that popular yet we saw that it was coming and decided to take a stand," she said.

The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art is also considering a ban.

In the U.S., several museums are putting in place policies to deal with the selfie stick.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington banned the sticks this February, and New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art also forbids them.

Sree Sreenivasan, the Met's chief digital officer, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "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."

Inventor didn't see ban coming

In an interview on CBC Radio’s morning show Daybreak Wayne Fromm, the Canadian inventor of the selfie stick, said he never anticipated these bans.

"When I invented the Quik Pod it really wasn’t for narcissism. It was to have photographs for posterity that would include everyone," Fromm, who is from Toronto, said.

As for their use in art museums, Fromm said he agreed with comments about common sense and etiquette.

"I believe to protect the artifacts it’s not safe to allow somebody to horizontally or laterally support their camera," he said.

New tech, new visitors?

The ban on the selfie stick does raise issues about attracting younger visitors to museums and how to deal with new technology.

Katy Perry’s selfie in front of “American Gothic” by Grant Wood at the Chicago Art Institute which was posted to Pinterest last summer was a huge publicity windfall for the art museum.

Museums including the MMFA do allow hand-held self portraits on smartphones.

But just as symphony orchestras have had to think about whether or not to allow tweeting during a performance, museums are now trying to figure out how to deal with this new gear and our fascination with posting photos of ourselves on social media.


Jeanette Kelly works as the arts reporter at CBC Montreal. She's also the host of Cinq à Six, Quebec's Saturday afternoon culture show on CBC Radio One.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?