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This Museum Is Changing How Its Visitors Experience Art (by Telling Them to Put down the Camera)

And, you know, really look at what’s in front of them.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam wants people to stop taking photos of art.

It’s “a passive and superficial experience,” reads the museum’s website. “Visitors are easily distracted and do not truly experience beauty, magic, and wonder. This is why the Rijksmuseum wants to help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of art and history through drawing, so #startdrawing!” 

The museum is further discouraging any photo-taking by hanging a big camera with an “X” through it at its entrance. The Rijksmuseum’s philosophy, which encourages alternatively sketching what you see, is: “[W]hen you do this, you begin to see things you never noticed before. You see proportions, details, lines. … You get closer to the artist’s secret,” the museum said on its YouTube channel.

On Saturday October 24th the Rijksmuseum launches the extensive campaign #startdrawing. The Rijksmuseum invites everybody to start drawing in the galleries of the museum. In this way, you get a closer look at the beauty of art. Part of the campaign is the international drawing festival The Big Draw on October 24th and 25th in the Rijksmuseum. On these days, the Rijksmuseum organises various free drawing activities. Which artwork inspires you to #startdrawing in the Rijksmuseum? #hierteekenen #bigdraw #storytelling #rijksmuseum #amsterdam

A photo posted by Rijksmuseum (@rijksmuseum) on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:18am PDT

The problem with cameras is they often put a filter around the things we're witnessing. While we're busy snapping, our attention becomes divided. We're so preoccupied with documenting an event that we miss out on experiencing the experience.

As French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote:

“Man is always a teller of tales; he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others; he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it. But you have to choose: to live or to recount.”

Art is meant to be considered. The setting where it's being displayed, the people looking at it, and the piece itself. We lose much of that when we're busy documenting. Drawing may help the Rijksmuseum's visitors meditate on these artistic moments and become inspired by the pieces they're analyzing.


Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: Rijksmuseum


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