Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Open letter to Ontario Heritage Trust

An Open letter to Ontario Heritage Trust,

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune to visit and spend time at Fulford Place.  As described by your website:  “This magnificent 20,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1899-1901 for self-made millionaire and Senator George Taylor Fulford I (1852-1905) and his family. The house was designed by noted American architect Albert W. Fuller, with landscaping design by the prestigious Olmsted Brothers firm.”

I am utterly amazed that such a stunning mansion, open since 1993, existed in my own province and I never even heard of it until June 2016.

I can tell you that the tour we were given surpassed by leaps and bounds any I have experienced at a heritage property site anywhere in the world.  The museum docent was a complete delight and could elegantly explain exactly what might have occurred in any of the rooms 100 years ago.

Twenty minutes into our tour I had to stop and ask “how is it possible that this museum does no social media?’  And more important, why is there a NO PHOTO policy?  Clearly, this spectacular site NEEDS and deserves the exposure and recognition.

“Fulford Place and its collection were donated to the Ontario Heritage Trust by the Fulford family in 1991. Many items from the family’s collection are exhibited in the house just as they were over 100 years ago.”

While I am thrilled that you have restored the home to what is was 100 years ago, I believe your policies need to reflect 2016.  There are so many stories here that need to be told.  Had I been given the opportunity, my Facebook page would have shared with friends around the world images of this first class museum in a way that would have compelled them to want to visit too.

Photography policies in museums around the world reflect a new trend allowing people to gather their own images of the art, antiques and installations that they see.  It is now part of the experience to share what you view with family and friends.  It is a new way of viewing art that I acknowledge not everyone appreciates, but one which I believe, brings new life and excitement into the museum going experience.

So I ask you to consider this.  Please let the world know more about some of our Canadian historical sites.  Let’s share instantly around the world the “original tapestries, paintings, statuary and ceramics collected on the Fulfords' world travels that are on display throughout the period rooms and are featured in special exhibits.” 

Set up a Facebook page, welcome bloggers, encourage photography and garner all the goodwill that comes from sharing news about all that has been done and all that needs to be done to maintain this mansion.  Harness all the good that comes with a social media audience of fans and supporters that would welcome images and news from this national historic site.

By way of closure, here is a short list of how world-class museums are handling the photo issue. 

Art Gallery of Ontario
The AGO allows photography for personal use only, except where indicated. We ask that you respect the rights of artists and their representatives under Canadian copyright law.

The Louvre
The Visitor Regulations authorize photography without the use of flash in the permanent collection exhibition rooms, under certain conditions:
"Artworks in the permanent collection exhibition rooms may be photographed or filmed for private use by the operator. The use of flash and other lighting equipment is prohibited. Photography and filming is strictly prohibited in the temporary exhibition rooms.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Still photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the Museum's galleries devoted to the permanent collection. Photographs cannot be published, sold, reproduced, transferred, distributed, or otherwise commercially exploited in any manner whatsoever.

The National Gallery London
Photography is allowed for personal, non-commercial purposes in the National Gallery. It is the visitor’s responsibility to ensure no copyright is infringed.

Carmi Cimicata

Update June 17, 2016
Ontario Heritage Trust Thank you for your comments about Fulford Place – it is great to hear how much you enjoyed your visit. We also appreciate your feedback on the photography policy. We are currently in the process of revisiting the policy for a number of the reasons that you mention. On the Ontario Heritage Trust Facebook page and on our Twitter account @ONheritage we regularly share information about Fulford Place, as well as our other museums across the province. We hope that you will like/follow us to learn more about all of our sites and activities!

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