In December 2011, London Transport Museum came under fire for banning DSLR cameras over other photographic equipment at the Aldwych Underground Station. A sign, displayed on 03 and 04 December, read: "Due to their combination of high-quality sensor and high resolution, digital SLR cameras are unfortunately not permitted inside the station".
Speaking to BJP, a spokeswoman explained at the time that DSLRs could represent a health and safety risk for visitors, as well as delay visits to the historical station.
Now, London Underground has revealed how the decision to ban DSLRs from the station was taken, after BJP filed a freedom of information request with Transport for London.
"The decision was made by London Underground and formed part of the terms and conditions for visitors to the event," reads TfL's answer. "The terms and conditions were sent to all ticket holders, posted on the London Transport Museum website in advance of the event as ‘Essential information for all ticket holders' and displayed at the station on the day."
But, TfL admits that the sign displayed outside the station was incorrect. "In the initial discussions regarding the event, a complete ban on photography and photography equipment such as tripods was considered because there is no lift at Aldwych and 2500 people would have to walk down a spiral staircase with over 160 steps. We were concerned that if people were carrying large, heavy cameras and equipment there could be an accident going up and down this number of stairs. In addition we were concerned if there were delays because people were held up by visitors taking pictures it was not going to be enjoyable for everyone and we might not have been able to get all those who had booked, safely round in the tours."
Subsequently, it was agreed that, instead of having an outright ban on all photography, only professional equipment would be deemed unacceptable, says TfL, "because it was felt that those photographers were more likely to want to take more pictures and want to stop for longer periods of time to take them. The term ‘professional equipment' was subsequently defined as digital SLRs and tripods."
On the first weekend of the tours, TfL says that it proved difficult for Museum staff supervising the event to implement the ban on DSLRs without support and guidance. "A sign was therefore made for the second weekend of tours. It was intended to make the situation clear for visitors, and staff and volunteers. The Museum is happy to concede that the sign did not achieve its intended purpose."
It adds: "The Museum apologises for this and has taken steps to make sure signs are thoroughly screened for future Museum events to ensure their meaning is clear before they are issued."
The Museum is also exploring the possibility of holding a photography day at the end of the year at the station. "This would be for a much smaller group of people who could use digital SLRs and other equipment. The smaller group will be much easier to manage and allow visitors to get the photographs they want whilst being able to safely get up and down the spiral staircase."
Read our initial report "Tight schedule" forced ban on DSLRs, says London Transport Museum.
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