January 25, 2010
NARA Says No More Tourist Photography of Founding Documents
The National Archives and Records Administration has published a final rule in today's Federal Register that bans photography, filming, and videotaping of exhibits in the National Archives Building in Washington. The popular documents that draw tourists and their devices are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, located in the Rotunda. When the rule was first proposed, it elicited only three comments, all opposed to the rule. Responding to the various concerns from commenters, filters for ultraviolet light were ruled out because they would obstruct the view of the documents. Professional photographers and media will still be able to arrange for access to the documents. The third comment wondered if flash photography really damaged the documents. NARA responded that it does.
The real question is enforcement. Let's all roll our eyes at attempts to enforce food and cell phone bans in libraries. NARA intends to use security to handle enforcement:
One final comment dealing with enforcement of the proposed rule suggested that any visitor with a photographic device on their person would be turned away and that overzealous security guards might subject visitors to harassment or bodily harm. NARA can assure this commenter that those hypothetical behaviors and policies will not happen. Visitors with photographic devices will be allowed to enter the building with their cameras, cell phones, and other photographic equipment. However, they will be met by appropriate signage and security personnel throughout the NAE to explain the ``no photography'' rule. In the event that a visitor makes the mistake of displaying or attempting to use a photographic device, they would first be warned that such behavior is not allowed. If, after they have received a warning, they continue to ignore the ``no photography'' rule they will be politely escorted from the building.
The new rule is added as subsection (c) to 36 CFR 1280.46. It does not apply to any action on the part of the Supreme Court that may diminish the rights contained in the documents. [MG]