Why is flash photography banned from most museums? © Getty Images

Why is flash photography banned from most museums?

Published: 29th December, 2021 at 11:00
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Is it a way of reducing damage to works of art or increasing sales in the museum gift shop? Chemistry expert Emma Davies sheds some light.

Museums generally cite concerns that camera flashes can damage the pigments in paintings. Some pigments are indeed sensitive to light, which speeds up chemical reactions that break them down. As a result, the lighting in museums and galleries is carefully controlled to minimise damage. But modern camera phones are unlikely to cause additional damage and there is no direct evidence that they do.

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Some experts argue that any damage done by camera flashes could be offset by closing and turning off the lights a few minutes earlier each day.

From a museum’s perspective, stopping to take photos will block the flow of visitors and reduce their need to hit the gift shop to buy postcards and prints.

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Asked by: Lauren Barrett, Isle of Wight

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Authors

Dr Emma Davies is a science writer and editor with a PhD in food chemistry from the University of Leeds. She writes about all aspects of chemistry, from food and the environment to toxicology and regulatory science.

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