On a slow Wednesday in the Renwick Gallery, the exhibits are nearly empty, the curators more friendly, and the experience more enjoyable when compared to visiting on a weekend. For this reason, my experience with the art was not hindered in the same way that Professor Troutman’s was by the disturbances of tourism. However, I too found the use of my cellphone and social media to be detrimental to parts of my experience. The aesthetic proprieties of the entire gallery contribute to the art of each exhibit, and photographs focus on only one aspect of the gallery, removing the awe-inspiring effects of its surroundings. For example, the molding in the picture below appears to take away from the artists work, occupying a small and inconvenient corner of an otherwise interesting picture. Too an observer inside the exhibit, this feature and the architecture of the entire room add to the already impressive aesthetic of the exhibit.
No one questions the attention inhibiting effects of cellphones on the millennial generation, which is why I’m not surprised to read that my classmates, professors, and Maura Judkis believe in the “Instagram effect”. But when faced with the temptation to take additional pictures of the exhibits past the required snapshot, I caved. In this day and age, it isn’t all that unreasonable to want to share what we see with our friends through social media. Before internet, our parents would keep scrapbooks of moments such as these to share and cherish. Who is to say that sharing a picture of an awe inspiring image or moment on social media isn’t in the same spirit. While it may take away from the experience of the museum visit itself, Instagram and Snapchat have given people a new platform to experience sports, music, and art with from different parts of the world in a matter of seconds.
I do not deny that taking photographs at a museum distracts a viewer from taking in the full impact of the gallery, but if the lure of that perfect profile picture brings more teenagers into museums, then so be it. As more and more people begin to travel to DC to experience the Renwick Gallery, whatever their motives, the more they will begin to appreciate the fine arts. As long as we remain conscious of the effects of our smartphones on our experiences, they can be a useful tool for sharing inspiring experiences, rather than a barrier between the observer and art.