[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 15 (Monday, January 25, 2010)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 3862-3863]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-1331]



36 CFR Part 1280

[FDMS Docket NARA-09-003]
RIN 3095-AB60

Photography in Public Exhibit Space

AGENCY: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: NARA has revised its regulations on the use of film, 
photographic and videotape equipment inside the National Archives 
Building in Washington, DC. Filming, photographing, and videotaping for 
personal use will be prohibited in exhibits of the National Archives 
Experience (NAE) in Washington, DC, including the Declaration of 
Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (known as the 
Charters of Freedom) in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building. 
In 2003 NARA installed exhibit cases for displaying the Charters and 
other NAE documents to provide better clarity for viewing the exhibits. 
NARA seeks to ensure the necessary protection for the documents from 
the cumulative effects of photographic flash and to enhance the overall 
visitor experience.

DATES: This rule is effective February 24, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marilyn Redman at telephone number 
301-837-3174 or fax number 301-837-0319.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On July 31, 2009, NARA published a proposed 
rule in the Federal Register (74 FR 38153) for a 60-day public comment 
period. This proposed rule banned all filming, photographing and 
videotaping for personal use in exhibit areas of the National Archives 
Experience (NAE) in Washington, DC. The public comment period closed on 
September 29, 2009. In response, NARA received comments from three 
private citizens. All three of the commenters were opposed to the 
proposed rule.
    Each of the commenters suggested that NARA install filters to the 
existing exhibit casing in order to protect the documents from damaging 
exposure to light sources. NARA used filters in earlier exhibit cases. 
Although, filters can remove high energy visible light and ultraviolet 
radiation, which are the most damaging light components, they do so by 
blocking some light in the blue and green part of the spectrum 
diminishing visibility of the display. NARA's 2003 renovations to the 
Rotunda included the removal of previously installed green filters to 
enhance the documents' visibility and show the true colors of the 
documents thereby improving the visitors' experience. For document 
protection, the National Archives now filters exhibit lighting at its 
source to remove all ultraviolet and high energy visible light.
    One commenter suggested that the inability to take photographs 
would create problems for tourists and professional photographers. To 
be clear, professional photographers and members of the media will 
continue to be permitted to take photographs and video footage of the 
exhibits and documents on display in the NAE with special permission 
and with available light, e.g. without the use of any flash or steady 
light source, just as they have been allowed to do in the past pursuant 
to 36 CFR 1280.52. This final rule applies only to the general public, 
who are the source of most photographic flash from either accidental or 
intentional action.
    Another comment submitted in response to the proposed rule 
questioned whether or not camera flash was truly harmful to documents. 
Current flash technology generally relies on halogen bulbs and the 
flash discharge contains a significant percent of ultraviolet 
radiation, a high energy radiation that can cause ink to fade and 
damage to paper and other supports. About a million visitors come to 
the National Archives exhibitions. The camera flashes that occur now, 
despite posted signs, add up to many thousands per year. We estimate 
50,000 flash discharges in the Rotunda annually under present rules. 
The extra light and ultraviolet radiation from these flashes hastens 
damage to the documents.
    Several comments raised concerns about the enactment of the 
proposed rule on the quality of the visitor experience. One letter 
suggested that every American needs to be encouraged to visit and 
photograph the documents on display. Another suggested that NARA must 
make the documents accessible and available to the public, and that by 
prohibiting photography, NARA will make its exhibits less useful to 
tourists because they will no longer be able to record their memories. 
The commenter further claimed that visitors are forced to shuffle past 
the documents at a pace that ensures only a brief glimpse of the 
documents before being asked to move along. Without a photograph to 
fall back on, their visit to NAE will only be a blurry memory.
    NARA does not believe that this rule will create problems for 
tourists. The agency believes this rule creates a better

[[Page 3863]]

visitor experience. Importantly, in 2003, NARA completed a two year 
renovation of the Rotunda and constructed additional exhibit space at 
the same time. Since the rededication of the Rotunda six years ago, 
visitors are no longer forced to shuffle past the documents at a 
regimented pace as the commenter states. Rather, visitors are permitted 
to enter the Rotunda in small groups to view the documents in any order 
they wish for as long as they wish. This system permits individuals and 
families to study the documents and discuss their meaning while also 
permitting visitors with limited time to satisfy their curiosity with a 
quick glance.
    For the past five years, the staff has monitored the NAE's informal 
visitor comment log as well as letters received from visitors 
requesting and demanding that NARA eliminate all photography. Comments 
such as these vastly outnumber those requesting permission for flash 
photography usage. The requests from visitors to eliminate photography 
usually ask us to do so for three reasons: the ultraviolet light is 
detrimental to the documents; visitors using cameras do not bother to 
look at or read the documents; and those taking photographs keep other 
visitors from viewing the exhibits as they use excessive amounts of 
time lining up and blocking people from intruding into their camera 
    The National Archives serves roughly a million visitors every year. 
During peak tourist season, the NAE can accommodate up to 4,500 each 
day. Over the past five years, the agency has monitored visitor traffic 
flow in the Rotunda of the NAE on a continual basis in an effort to 
improve the visitor experience. It has long been noted that visitors 
with cameras disrupt and dramatically slow down the flow of visitors 
and frustrate many of the eager visitors who are forced to wait to view 
our country's founding documents. By eliminating all filming, 
photographing and videotaping by the public in the exhibit areas, NARA 
expects to eliminate delays, and provide its visitors with a more 
rewarding experience. For those visitors who wish to take home an image 
of the documents, the National Archives Shop has facsimiles of various 
sizes and price ranges available for purchase. NARA also provides 
visitors with the ability to access and print digital images of the 
documents from the Boeing Learning Center free of charge. Finally, NARA 
has posted high quality images of documents on display at the NAE on 
its Web site http://www.archives.gov; visitors can download or print 
these images from their personal computers at no cost.
    One final comment dealing with enforcement of the proposed rule 
suggested that any visitor with a photographic device on their person 
would be turned away and that overzealous security guards might subject 
visitors to harassment or bodily harm. NARA can assure this commenter 
that those hypothetical behaviors and policies will not happen. 
Visitors with photographic devices will be allowed to enter the 
building with their cameras, cell phones, and other photographic 
equipment. However, they will be met by appropriate signage and 
security personnel throughout the NAE to explain the ``no photography'' 
rule. In the event that a visitor makes the mistake of displaying or 
attempting to use a photographic device, they would first be warned 
that such behavior is not allowed. If, after they have received a 
warning, they continue to ignore the ``no photography'' rule they will 
be politely escorted from the building.

List of Subjects in 36 CFR Part 1280

    Archives and records, Federal buildings and facilities.

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, NARA amends part 1280 of 
title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, as follows:


1. The authority citation for part 1280 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 44 U.S.C. 2102 notes, 2104(a), 2112, 2903

2. Amend Sec.  1280.46 by:
a. Adding ``and'' to the end of paragraph (b)(1);
b. Removing ``; and'' from the end of paragraph (b)(2) and adding a 
period in its place; and
c. Redesignating paragraph (b)(3) as paragraph (c) and revising it to 
read as follows:

Sec.  1280.46  What are the rules for filming, photographing, or 
videotaping on NARA property for personal use?

* * * * *
    (c) You may not film, photograph, or videotape in any of the 
exhibit areas of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, 
including the Rotunda where the Declaration of Independence, the 
Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are displayed.

    Dated: January 14, 2010.
David S. Ferriero,
Archivist of the United States.
[FR Doc. 2010-1331 Filed 1-22-10; 8:45 am]