White House to allow photographs during tours

Caitlyn Richardson (left) of San Jose, Calif., takes a group photo with her mother Nieves Richardson (center) and sister Chloe Richardson outside the Blue Room while touring the White House in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Having arrived at the White House with only a few years of Washington experience, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, the first lady, were often frustrated by rules and conventions not even they could break.

But on Wednesday morning, Michelle Obama posted on her Instagram account a short video in which she literally tore up one of those rules: the more than 40-year ban on photography during tours of the White House.

“If you’ve been on a White House tour, you may have seen this sign,” Michelle Obama says in the video, holding up a sign that states: “No photos or social media allowed. Your cooperation is appreciated.”

“Well, not anymore,” she says, before ripping the sign in two.

Then, in a nod to the casual nature of social media and the convention of funny outtakes that even children’s movies like “Monsters, Inc.” routinely include, the video provides an outtake of Michelle Obama laughing and pretending to rip a sign.

In a brief news release accompanying the video, the White House said that the ban on video cameras, bulky single-lens reflex cameras, tripods, flash photography and live-streaming would remain in effect.

But cellphone cameras and compact still-photo cameras with lenses no longer than 3 inches will be allowed during tours.

Officials are encouraging people to post on social media pictures taken during tours using the hashtag #WhiteHouseTour.

The rule change is an acknowledgment of the near-impossibility of stopping all visitors from using their cellphones to record and to widely share personal experiences.

Institutions that still ban recording or photographic equipment, such as federal courts, often demand that visitors surrender their cellphones, an increasingly burdensome requirement as the devices become more vital to many functions and as being out-of-touch with family or work becomes less acceptable.

Other items will continue to be banned during White House tours, like handbags, strollers, guns and martial arts weapons, including nunchuks.

Although the White House has embraced social media for some purposes, the Obamas remain wary of blurring the line between their personal and public lives.

In invitations for a recent private party at which Prince and Stevie Wonder performed, they asked guests not to post anything about the invitations or the party on social media, a request with which only a few of the nearly 500 guests failed to comply.