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Subject: Flash photography

Flash photography

From: Elaine Hodges <mnhen039>
Date: Thursday, August 8, 1996
Jennifer Queree <jennyq [at] barn__southern__co__nz> writes

>It has just been suggested to staff at our museum that we are party
>poopers in not allowing flash photography in the exhibit areas.
>Further, that we are one of few museums in the world still following
>this creed.

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian, currently forbids
flash photography in a new exhibit, "Eyes on Science: Illustrating
Natural History," which contains many old objects. These include
pencil, watercolor, and ink on paper as well as computer printouts
(dye transfer), a dinosaur fossil, manuscripts, photos, herbarium
and other specimens, etc. Some are over 150 years old, some are six
months old.  This exhibit tells the story of the importance and
relevance of basic natural history research over Smithsonian's 150+
years using scientific illustrations.

The principle is that sensitive objects like art work or fabrics
(especially silk, I am told) are affected by light, including
photography flashes. Flash photography was not permitted in our
exhibit "Kimonos," that included beautifully decorated silk kimonos.
The damage from light continues after exposure, even in the dark, I
have read.

Now, in our exhibits of stuffed animals (taxidermy) in dioramas,
mostly behind glass or acrylic, flash photography is permitted, as
it is in the dinosaur halls and virtually all halls that do not
include art or fabrics.

The Smithsonian art museums do not permit flash photography.
Furthermore, wherever sensitive subjects are displayed light levels
are kept very low, as in the exhibit of First Ladies' gowns, "Eyes
on Science," and others. Visitors complain about the dim light, but
protection of the objects comes first. So, I guess we are party
poopers, too.

Elaine R.S. Hodges
Scientific Illustrator
MRC 169, National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C. 20560
Fax: 202-786-2894

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:17
                 Distributed: Thursday, August 8, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-17-008
Received on Thursday, 8 August, 1996

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