Our grand-daughter, aged six and a half, has decided that museums are A Good Thing, and so we took her to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge over the Easter holiday. She had a great time (we could hardly drag her out of the Armoury), but what really struck me was that whatever took her fancy she photographed on her cameraphone.
At first I was alarmed at the rapid and apparently indiscriminate way she took her pictures: "oh, that's nice,`' click; "that's nice," click; click. And then I realised that for the cameraphone generation this is one of the ways in which you experience and process the world, marking those things of interest by taking a photo of them.
It wasn't the only way she experienced the museum objects; we talked about the ones on which she seemed to focus ("which parts of the horse is its armour protecting?), and having obtained some paper and crayons from the Visitors desk she drew about a dozen of her favourite exhibits as we went around. We also hunted for all the cool objects illustrated on the kid's map of the museum: the box of gold coins, the slightly scary painting of a winged skeleton, the giant ceramic owl, the Egyptian sarcophagus, and the figurine of an angry Harlequin (which she spotted before we did). But at the end of a long day she was still snapping with almost as much intensity as when she started.
I'm not worried about whether her pictures are any good, or even whether she keeps a single one of them. I'm happy to accept the cameraphone as one of the tools with which a child these days encounters and tries to make sense of the world. I'm also deeply grateful to the Fitzwilliam for having lifted their ban on photography; clearly our grand-daughter was not their first visitor to experience the Museum through a cameraphone!