As the main character in a story…”

You’re not allowed to take photos inside the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo (a museum that, sadly, we were too late off the mark to get the required advance tickets for).  The museum’s website describes their rationale for the policy:

The Ghibli Museum is a portal to a storybook world. As the main character in a story, we ask that you experience the Museum space with your own eyes and senses, instead of through a camera’s viewfinder. We ask that you make what you experienced in the Museum the special memory that you take home with you.

As with navigating by GPS, the introduction of digital cameras, without the limiting factor of expensive film, into the travel-with-children experience is something I think a lot about. Visit any children’s museum or science museum these days, and 75% of parents with children will have a camera out and will be taking photos of their kids. A lot of photos.

I know from my own experiences that focusing on recording the experience means, of necessity, not participating in the experience yourself; if you’re busy taking a photo of your kid getting dressed up in a kimono you’re staging a performance, not engaging in an activity.

I don’t think it’s impossible to do both, to record and engage, and I do believe there’s a larger value in at least some recording. But I also know that engaging with children, actually doing something with them, takes effort and concentration, and that interrupting that to fiddle with a camera can ruin that engagement.