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The White House Invites Tourists To Use Their Cameras


Security's tight in Washington this Fourth of July weekend. Some new spikes have been added to the top of the fence outside the White House. But inside the executive mansion, an old barrier's coming down. For the first time in more than 40 years, visitors touring the White House are allowed to take photographs, and Facebook may never be the same. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: To all the famous faces who've had their pictures snapped inside the White House, the superstars and sovereigns, you can now add Olivia Ward, grade four, of Chicago.

OLIVIA WARD: I thought it was really cool to see all the different rooms that you don't get to see a lot.

HORSLEY: Olivia was touring the White House this weekend with her grandparents, Bob and Cindy Ward. They were taking pictures with a cell phone to make a scrapbook and share online.

BOB WARD: You know, it's a good way to see what our trip was like when we get home.

CINDY WARD: I was telling our granddaughter, my whole life I've heard of the Red Room, the Green Room, the State Dining Room, and here we are.

HORSLEY: Nearby, Suzanne Weber of Kansas City was building her own photo collection.

SUZANNE WEBER: And I've got some pictures of the presidents and their wives. It was really nice because the signs still say you can't.

HORSLEY: For decades, signs posted throughout the mansion have warned no photos for fear that flashbulbs might damage the White House art collection. But now that Kodachrome has given way to low-light iPhones, First Lady Michelle Obama says it's time for a change.


FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: If you've been on a White House tour, you may have seen this sign. Well, not anymore.


HORSLEY: Always hip to social media, the Obamas are encouraging visitors to share their pictures with the hashtag #whitehousetour. And Instagram was quickly populated by tourists snapping selfies in the State Dining Room, posing beneath the portrait of Abraham Lincoln and playing paparazzi with Bo and Sunny, the first dogs. It's a bit of digital democracy for the people's house, even as the physical barriers get higher and higher. Scott Horsley, NPR News...


HORSLEY: ...The White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.