Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Goings On in Philly

Yesterday we went to the Philadelphia Zoo with some friends from Gymboree. The Zoo was great, the weather was good and all in all we had a very nice time. On the way home, we realized that the next exit on 676 was the one you can take to get to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Philly Museum of Art is currently having an exhibition called "Cezanne and Beyond" which catalogues a number of Cezanne's works and puts them together with the works of other artists for which Cezanne was an inspiration. Sounds neat, right? Well, that's what I thought anyway. I tried to call the Museum on my way there to find out the hours but they just direct you to their website and all of the "membership representatives" were busy with other calls. When we show up in front of the Museum the sign on the exterior indicates that it's closed on Mondays, but people were coming out from inside and the parking lot had cars in it. So I drove over to the parking attendant's booth and he confirmed that yes the museum was open.

We park the wagon and head inside... we're told that it will be $24 for admission to the museum and the special exhibit and that we'll have to check the stroller before going in to the Cezanne exhibit (but we could use it throughout the rest of the museum). We had entered on the ground floor and we then made our way up to the main floor to check out the exhibit. While walking through the main lobby I spotted a neat statute of Diana (which may or may not be the one which was on top of the original Madison Square Garden... but that is what it looked like) and I saw a guard eyeing me so I asked him if I could take a picture so long as I wasn't using a flash. He said that I could and I took a couple of pictures in the lobby.

Then we walked over to the Cezanne exhibition where there were four museum employees at the entrance. I peeked inside and there were really very few people at the exhibit, so since there were no signs up regarding stroller check I asked the ticket taker whether I could bring the stroller in. *** THIS IS THE TIME IN OUR STORY WHERE A DOSE OF COMMON SENSE WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL*** Despite the fact that there were very few people in the exhibition and that the exhibition rooms were themselves rather large and despite the fact that Miss B. was clearly about to enter nap mode, we were not permitted to bring in the stroller. Note to the folks at the museum: I can understand you not wanting strollers where there are a) lots of statutary littering the exhibition space or b) lots of people at the exhibit and it's crowded but, when it's not crowded, when you don't have a specific policy posted, when there are no other people with children anywhere near the exhibit, sometimes its best to use a little common sense and let the woman with the sleepy toddler bring her stroller into the exhibition.

Fine, so we check the stroller. Now I've got Miss B. (and her singing Bunny) in tow. I've also got my purse and my camera. We walk through the entrance, past four museum workers, give them our tickets, decline the audio tour and head in. We look through the first gallery space, move into the second and I saw a Matisse that I wanted to take a picture of. Heeding the prior advice from the lobby guard, I wasn't using a flash and Snap! I took my picture. It was blurry (low light conditions). Immediately a guard runs up to me and in a stressed out and harried voice tells me: "No photos! No PHOTOS!" To which I respond, "okay, okay, I'm putting my camera away" Now mind you-- there were no conspicuous signs (or signs any where, that I saw, for that matter) which would have led one to the conclusion that photos were not permitted. Then the guard tells me that I have to delete the picture.


Delete the picture?

Who are you, Brad and Angelina?

I'm not a commercial photographer. I'm not going to be selling this image not to mention it's blurry, so it shouldn't even matter!

Yeah, okay. So the guard proceeds to tell me that its their policy and that I have to delete the photo. I tell them that I'm a lawyer and I don't have to do anything. Then the proceed to sequester me and Miss B. while they get another security guard. I tell that person that there were no signs about the photos and their response is "Well, we're supposed to be the signs" she then asks the other guard whether she saw the camera when I walked in (as if I was trying to hide it from them-- it's a D200 with a big-ass lens on it-- I had it over my shoulder! In plain view!) The guard says she didn't see it and the second guard tells me it was their mistake but regardless it's the policy and I have to delete the photo. I again say no. Then they want to call over "the Captain"! (The captain of the guards! sounds so formal!).

Miss B. and I have now been escorted to the outside of the exhibit and we're standing there, patiently, while the guards make another harried radio call to the captain (as if they had just caught some Al Quaida or something). The captain runs over, consults with the Guard and asks "what, where are they?" We're right here! Yes, that's right, the five foot tall woman carrying a child, I'm the big threat to your licensing agreement with whomever loaned you guys the Geranium painting.

At this point I tell them that I'll gladly delete my photo so long as I get my $24 back. This requires the museum director! (And, on the way to the museum director, the Captain of the Guard points to a small paragraph in the museum guidebook which indicates that no photos are permitted in special exhibitions--- you're kidding, right? I'm supposed to read the boilerplate in the map?? PUT UP A SIGN!)

Then, a man named David comes over and takes us back to the admissions desk and begins to work with the cashier to refund our money. He asks me whether I'm leaving the museum because I couldn't take the photos, to which I reply, of course not! I said that I had no problem with the policy but that I did have a problem with how the security staff treated us and the fact that they kept insisting that I delete my photo. Again-- another dose of common sense needed to be applied to this situation! Clearly I'm not in their with loads of camera equipment-- I'm not looking to "release" these images for personal gain or otherwise, not to mention the picture is blurry anyway! Once I tell you that I won't take any more pictures and that I only took the picture because I thought it was permitted after I had asked the other guard and I put my camera away, leave me alone! I don't really care what your "agreement" is with the people who lent you the image! That's you're problem! If you don't want people taking photos clearly post that. Not to mention that before I took the picture I had walked past 6 museum employees with the camera on my shoulder! So, I also told David that between having to do stroller check and then going through the whole paparazzi-esque photo debacle I just had no interest in continuing my visit to their museum! I let him know that at the Sistine chapel, the Swiss Guard did not attempt to make me delete my photos!!! Geesh.

Moral of the story? We like the Met better.

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