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Go ahead St. Louis, take your selfie sticks to local museums

Floris M. Oosterveld | Flickr | cropped

Selfie sticks. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re here; and they seem to be getting more popular.

This week, the Smithsonian Institution — the world’s largest collection of museums, which includes the Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum and Portrait Gallery — banned the use of selfie sticks. Citing concerns over the “safety of our visitors and collections,” the museums will continue to encourage visitors to take selfies using the old-fashioned outstretched arm method.

Some describe the expandable rods as the ultimate convenience for taking self-portraits. No longer must people fear that a stranger might run off with their phone or camera. Others say the extendable monopod is obnoxious and may be narcissi-stick.

Representatives from St. Louis’ major arts and culture institutions say they’re keeping a close eye on selfie sticks, but so far, they haven’t been a problem.

“I have never seen one used by visitors at the museum. I checked with a couple of our front-line staff and they have never seen one used either," said Robert Brock, assistant director of guest services at the Missouri History Museum.

Officials at the Missouri History Museum are aware of the national selfie stick trend and say they will discuss it if the devices become an issue.

The St. Louis Art Museum does not ban selfie sticks but officials there say they anticipate them becoming more popular and are developing a policy.

The Contemporary Art Museum points out that overall photography permissions change depending on its shows and it will continue to “encourage photography (and selfies!) whenever possible.”

The St. Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden and St. Louis Science Center do not have a policy regarding selfie sticks, but an official at MoBOT says it’s an issue they may look at as they approach the Lantern Festival and their event season.

For other arts institutions, including the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, which reopens in May, selfie sticks aren’t an issue. “We typically don't allow photography of the artwork out of respect for our lenders’ wishes. Since we are a non-collecting institution, the artwork on view is on loan to us for the duration of an exhibition,” said Katie Hasler Pessig.

This isn’t the first time selfies have entered the St. Louis arts scene. Last year PHD Gallery on Cherokee Street, had an exhibit called, “Selfie STL.”

Philip Hitchcock, artist and owner of PHD Gallery, called the selfie “more than just an aberrant confluence of technology and vanity. The fact that institutions like the Smithsonian and MOMA have written guidelines for the taking of selfies into their public policy is proof that, for better or worse, selfies are here to stay."

The University of Missouri-St. Louis let students know last week that selfie sticks are available for sale in the bookstore for $8.99.

Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.