Louvre forbids taking photographs

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By Traroth, October 2005

Egyptian art : sitting scrivener

Since September 14, 2005, the Louvre museum has allowed fewer and fewer of its artworks to be photographed. At the moment, the ban applies only to the Apollon gallery, from the first floor of the Denon wing and the landing where the Victory of Samothrace exhibit is located. However it will eventually apply throughout the museum. According to information displayed in the museum and on the Louvre website, the taking of photographs is unnecessary, since pictures of the artworks are available on the website. However, since these photos were taken by photographers from the Louvre, they are copyrighted and so can't be used without the museum's permission, which seems very difficult to obtain.

I first heard about the photo ban in June 2005, when I was prevented from using a tripod in the museum. The security officers basically said, "You are lucky to still be allowed to take pictures at all. From September it will be completely banned".

I was upset and I started a page (in French) to talk about it. The story attracted a lot of comments. I also contacted some representatives from the Louvre and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux (a national museum management service), which is responsible for this kind of issue. They didn't listen to my points and instead started asking questions about the photos available on the different Wikimedia projects (in particular, the Louvre pyramid ones).

Ceiling of the Rotunda of Apollo, in the Louvre museum, in Paris. In the center, "The Sun. The fall of Icarus", from Merry-Joseph Blondel, 1819

According to some, the ban aims to preserve the museum's exclusivity on artwork pictures. Others think it is a consequence of the museum's growing popularity (from 3 million visitors in 1993, to more than 7 million in 2004 according to French newspaper Le Monde). The official story is that people taking pictures blocks the flow of visitors around the museum. It's difficult to know what is really going on.

However, this ban clearly blocks access to a unique heritage which should belong to the world, without needing to go through the Louvre, its website, CD-ROM, postcards or books. From now, artwork from the Louvre will be accessible only through an exclusive filter. No other person, institution, company, association will be able to display artwork from the Louvre without authorization. This includes Wikipedia.

I doubt that culture, which is the raison d'être of museums, benefits from this.