Tag Archives: agentes de seguridad

What makes a museum secure?

An article written by  and mentioned by Elena Vozmediano.

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In 2013 I became the moderator of the Museum Security Network after its founder, Ton Cremers, the former Head of Security at the Rijksmuseum, retired. With the help of our correspondents in the USA and Africa, I review articles, press reports, and intelligence on museum security issues and circulate them to our members every day. Since I took over the role there hasn’t been a single day when there were no museum security issues on which to report; it often takes several hours to go through the last 24 hours’ worth of information on acts of vandalism, theft, and damage. But while Hollywood conveys the impression that museums need be afraid of only acrobatic millionaires and art-collecting Doctor No-style super villains, the reality is rather different and considerably less glamorous.

What then do we mean by ‘museum security’? This increasingly all-encompassing term essentially refers to the protection of cultural and historical artefacts and the publicly accessible sites that house them. While the number of security threats appears to be growing, museums face the difficult task of addressing these concerns on tight budgets and without making themselves significantly less accessible to visitors, or less enjoyable.

In order to mitigate and, wherever possible, prevent the various risks that may befall a museum, its collection, staff or visitors, modern-day museum security requires an adaptable, multilayered approach. This frequently involves the use of specialist technology and software in combination with specially trained security guards, and experienced gallery assistants. Museums, guided by industry standards and recommendations, are advised to carry out carefully considered and regularly updated risk assessments to ensure that they have adequate and proportionate security measures in place. Without this, security can suffer and institutions may struggle to meet key insurance requirements and be unable to secure high-profile loans for exhibitions.

When people ask me about the role of the Network, the question that crops up more than any other is: ‘Why does museum security matter?’ Fundamentally, it matters for the same reasons that museums matter: they educate and engage the public, promote our own cultural heritage and communities, and inform us about the history of other cultures in the world. In the UK we are lucky to have access to some of the greatest collections and institutions in the world and that such access is free. Over time, museums have also become great collecting houses – the ‘end user’ for objects that were commissioned, created, and bought and sold privately for centuries before finally going on permanent, public display. If you believe that these institutions and the artefacts they hold are important, it follows that you would also value the protection and preservation of such collections and our access to them. So what exactly is it that we need to protect museums from?

Terrorist attacks at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in 2014 and at the Bardo Museum in Tunisia in 2015 left over 20 visitors and tourists dead, with dozens injured. It was therefore understandable when, in the immediate aftermath of the November Paris attacks, the Louvre and other important cultural sites were closed for several days before reopening with enhanced security measures. The destruction and looting of cultural sites in Mali, Syria, and Iraq (among others) has involved frequent attacks on museums by terrorist organisations intent on wiping out the cultural heritage and history of their alleged enemies. This has led to international outrage and condemnation from organisations such as UNESCO, as well as a general increase in security at museums worldwide. But while high-profile attacks attract significant press attention and understandably result in the review of security procedures at major national institutions, there are more commonplace risks to museum security, which need to be considered just as carefully.

As public spaces, museums derive significant revenue from their visitors, whether from entrance fees, special exhibitions, or purchases from the café and shop. Creating a safe, welcoming, and open environment, which encourages people to visit repeatedly, is therefore of primary concern. But ‘open access’ has to be carefully balanced with museum security. Ideally, the latter should be subtle, but ever present. Anyone who has visited the Louvre and stood in front of the Mona Lisa may be surprised at the amount of security surrounding the painting and the distance at which viewers are kept, despite its protective casing. However, when you consider that this priceless painting has been stolen, damaged in an acid attack, had a rock thrown at it, and a cup of tea poured over its case, it is perhaps more surprising that the Louvre has the work on public display at all, and that over eight million visitors a year admire Leonardo’s masterpiece.
Most institutions carry out regular risk assessments based on the importance and type of each exhibit, its location in the building, and how physically accessible it is when the museum is open, and when it is closed. They also need to take into account any recent trends or intelligence that may suggest that an item is more likely to be damaged, stolen, or attacked. Artefacts are then divided into security groups, from high- to low-risk, and the categories internally monitored to reflect changes in their status.

In 2011, museums and auction houses across the UK and Europe were warned to step up security for any rhino horns in their holdings and to remove them from public display where possible, and even to take images of them down from their websites. (The Natural History Museum in London replaced its rhino horns with fakes.) The warning came after over 20 thefts of horns and skulls by what was believed to be an organised criminal gang seeking to profit from the value of powdered rhino horn (twice the price of gold at the time) in the Chinese medicinal market.

In April 2012, the Oriental Museum in Durham and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge both had several pieces of valuable Chinese jade stolen in night-time raids. Later that same month, staff at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath who had been briefed on the increased risks to their collection, were able to prevent an attempted theft by getting to a secure location and alerting the police after thieves forced their way in to the museum during opening hours.

While museum security has increasingly moved away from depending on guards sitting in a specified spot to supervise an exhibit and its visitors, well-trained staff remain integral to the safety and security of cultural institutions. Now that visitor experience and engagement is more actively encouraged, security guards and gallery assistants are even better placed to identify and deter potentially problematic or criminal behaviour at the earliest stage; high-specification CCTV security systems and gallery control-rooms are only as effective as the staff monitoring and managing them. Regular maintenance of security systems and staff revision of security protocols in light of any temporary issues is also extremely important. In 2010, a lone thief broke in to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris at night, leaving with works by Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Braque, and Modigliani. Although the individual had been caught on the museum’s CCTV, the alarm had been malfunctioning for over a month and failed to go off. As a result the guards didn’t notice the broken window or the bare walls until long after the thief had left.

The careful placement and training of staff can also be extremely useful in combatting opportunistic thefts. For example, the recent thefts of Renaissance coins from the National Museum of Scotland and Roman coins from Chelmsford Museum took place during opening hours, but were not immediately noticed by staff.

Since museums are frequently housed in older buildings or those not designed with security in mind, it is important to consider the lines of sight available to personnel on the ground, and to CCTV cameras (where installed). If staff need to move around to oversee multiple areas, consideration should also be given to the amount of time this may leave certain areas out of view. It is for this reason that museums seeking to redesign their storage and exhibition spaces are increasingly looking for architects familiar with security concerns. Ground-floor access to key exhibits may be popular with visitors and glass-sided buildings may look impressive, but these factors should be weighed up against security and insurance concerns.

When museums carry out risk assessments and security audits, they should always ask themselves how many layers of security need to exist between the object and someone who may wish to harm or steal it. Picture alarms and bullet-proof glass protect exhibits from some risks, but not others. Staff who are trained in how to monitor and respond to threats also need to know what to do after a breach has occurred. The protocols and extensive in-house security departments at larger museums may be well equipped to deal with thefts and acts of vandalism, but smaller institutions, and the volunteers they rely upon, are often less familiar with how to identify and preserve a crime scene, collate, and circulate key details – and of how important it is to notify senior management or law enforcement as soon as possible without fear of being blamed.

The threats to museum security are unfortunately a far cry from what The Thomas Crown Affair would have us believe.  The work may not sound exciting and security resources are often among the first hit by museum budget cuts. However, despite the myriad risks posed, and the difficult balancing act involved in meeting the expectations of visitors and management, the dedicated individuals and volunteers who work in museum security still have one crucial purpose, which is to protect the past for the benefit of everyone.

Bromas con cámara oculta en museos

El la red encontrarán otros muchos ejemplos, como éste: Hidden camera comedy movie at Istanbul museum of wax.

National Gallery, un documental de Frederick Wiseman – TRAILER

National Gallery, by Frederick Wiseman, takes the audience behind the scenes of a London institution, on a journey to the heart of a museum inhabited by masterpieces of Western art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. National Gallery is the portrait of a place, its way of working and relations with the world, its staff and public, and its paintings. In a perpetual and dizzying game of mirrors, film watches painting watches film.

TRAILER VOSE NATIONAL GALLERY from Surtsey Films on Vimeo.

Uno de los visitantes comenta: “Este cuadro fue atacado hace un par de meses. Un loco se coló con un aerosol rojo. Y vine a la mañana siguiente y el cuadro estaba ahí, perfectamente limpio.”

Una “boda guerilla” delante de La noche estrellada de Van Gogh

Podría haber sido una boda en intimidad, por la poca afluencia de invitados al evento. Pero acabó saltando a los medios.

Y es que los cuadros más famosos de Vincent Van Gogh, además de inspirar curiosos objetos que sobrepasan al souvenir, como vaporosas faldas de tul, chanclas tipo flip flop, fundas de móbiles y de consolas, y motivos para calabazas de halloween, también hace que la gente se enamore y que hasta unos quieran casarse delante de esa misma pintura. Imparable embrujo el de este pintor!

guerrila wedding

Martin Gee, supervisor de diseño en la Boston Globe, y Carrie Hoover, directora de arte de la revista Edible Vineyard, afirman que se conocieron y se enamoraron delante de La noche estrellada de Van Gogh, en el MOMA. Y cuando quisieron casarse, decidieron hacerlo en ese mismo lugar sin previo aviso al museo. El director, Glenn D. Lowry, afirma que tuvo que echar al guarda de seguridad para que la ceremonia pudiera tener lugar. Y es que, según él, se percató de que la cosa iba en serio.

Al menos a Martin y a Carrie les dio por esta especie de nueva religión artítistica y no por ambientar su boda en el cuadro.

Más detalles de la boda aquí y una entrevista al director sobre el asunto en este otro lugar.

 

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SR2 Security Robot vs the army grunts of the art world

In the 1990s, a technology company, Cybermotion, tried to sell museums on the concept of robot security guards.

With a squat body on three wheels, a rail-like neck and a rectangular head, the SR2 Security Robot looked like Number 5 from the movie “Short Circuit.” It used sonar and infrared technology to monitor the air quality, temperature and humidity in galleries, and could detect motion caused by potential intruders. But the motorized museum guard failed to catch on, and Cybermotion closed in 2001.

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Nevertheless, some museum visitors might see guards, so often silent and stone-faced, as more machine than human. That is a misconception. Many guards, like the six profiled below, speak with obvious passion about the exhibitions, as well as the visitors, for which they feel responsible.

Museum guards find the lost, shepherd the confused and save runaway toddlers from impending collisions with immovable sculptures. The job demands long hours, constant vigilance and a reservoir of patience to put up with illicit picture takers, soda smugglers and pontificating amateur art critics, among other annoyances. Consider these guards the army grunts of the art world.

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Luther Nakapaahu

National Museum

Of the American Indian

Most museum guards field common questions. Greatest hits include “Where are the bathrooms?” and “Can I touch this?” But visitors to the National Museum of the American Indian in New York often ask Luther Nakapaahu about survival skills: for example, “How do you make a bed in the snow?” Mr. Nakapaahu, an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is the only guard of Native American descent at the New York museum.

He grew up in Honolulu and moved to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming when he was 17, after his mother died. His maternal grandparents put him right to work, rebuilding the family’s horse ranch.

“Wyoming, it was a shock,” said Mr. Nakapaahu, 51, a large man with close-cropped hair and a baritone voice. “We started learning how to bale hay, going up to the mountains to cut tepee poles, learning to shave tepee poles, then learning to break and ride horses.”

Mr. Nakapaahu sees parallels between handling horses and communicating with crowds at museums. “Sometimes with horses and people, patience is a virtue,” he said. With a grin, he recalled the first time he tried to corral horses by chasing them: his uncle “just started laughing. What he showed us was you take a bale of oats, put it in a pail and yell — and they come to us.”

Mr. Nakapaahu, who spends some breaks in the museum’s library learning about his heritage, scans new exhibitions for artifacts from his tribe. He recalled spotting a Northern Arapaho saddle displayed in “A Song for the Horse Nation,” a 2009-11 exhibition. “It’s sort of everything mixed up in one feeling,” he said quietly. “Happy, pride, shock.”

Todd Balthazor

Walker Art Center

If you notice a guard at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis suddenly balancing on one foot or striking a yoga pose, it’s probably just Todd Balthazor limbering up. “I’m stretching all the time,” he said. “You have to do that, or else you are going to stiffen up. We have some elderly workers, and they just walk like trees.”

Even when the galleries are packed, Mr. Balthazor, 31, admits to struggling on occasion against monotony. To stay sharp, he developed tricks like memorizing a guest’s outfit or holding his breath “until you almost black out.” He also keeps an eye out for material for his autobiographical comic strip, which the museum publishes online.

In the strip, “It Is What It Is,” Mr. Balthazor frequently aims graphic barbs at museum guests, like the “photo bomber,” who poses in front of large paintings without considering the art. “They look at it like, ‘This is going to be a great backdrop for my Facebook profile,’ ” Mr. Balthazor said.

In another strip, he bemoans having to guard “Ja Ja Ja Ja Ja, Nee Nee Nee Nee Nee,” an audio installation by the German artist Joseph Beuys. “It’s an 11-minute loop of him just going, ‘Ja, ja, ja, nee, nee, nee.’ You can’t even think, unfortunately, when you’re next to that,” he said. “And then you had to stand right next to the speakers because they didn’t want people to actually poke at it with pencils.”

Dynnita Bryant

Philadelphia Museum of Art

“It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work.” Dynnita Bryant heard that refrain repeatedly while laboring to persuade fellow guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to form a union.

But Ms. Bryant received encouragement from many visitors and inspiration from paintings in the museum. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Peter Paul Rubens’s “Prometheus Bound” particularly stirred her. “ ‘Sunflowers’ makes me think, I stand next to this priceless piece of art for this little bit of change, and ‘Prometheus Bound’ makes me think, this is us,” said Ms. Bryant, who now moonlights as president of the Philadelphia Security Officers Union.

In 2011, the union’s first contract with AlliedBarton Security Services, which provides guards for the museum, increased guards’ wages to $10.88 an hour from $10.03 and stipulated two subsequent raises. Guards also received up to three paid sick days; before they had none. Ms. Bryant said the extra 85 cents an hour had improved the lives of many guards. “I could buy a loaf of bread and have some change,” she said. “That was a victory to me.”

Darrell Lawrence

Smithsonian National Air

And Space Museum

Though he went “hand-to-hand with the Taliban” as a military policeman at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base and fought in the gulf war, Darrell Lawrence argues that working as a guard at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington is a more difficult job. “It’s more peaceful here” than in Iraq, he allows, but in the military, “you knew who your enemy was.”

Visitors to museums tend not to advertise themselves as terrorists. “Everybody who comes through the door is a threat,” said Mr. Lawrence, who frequently responds to questions with “No, sir” or “Yes, sir.”

The threat level rose in 2009, when a white supremacist shot and killed a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. “It’s a wake-up call. You hate for something like that to happen, but you have to be on your toes and more aware,” said Mr. Lawrence, who called working as a museum guard a national service.

While Mr. Lawrence maintains an active-duty mind-set, he still manages to admire some of the museum’s exhibitions. He is in awe of the 1903 Wright Flyer, Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first airplane, but reveres a Predator drone on display. He credits a Predator with saving his life during Operation Desert Storm. He was about to transport Iraqi prisoners through hostile territory when the Predator detected and destroyed a potential ambush. “I love the drone,” he said. “I’ve seen it in action.”

Jeffrey Salter

Guggenheim Museum

Jeffrey Salter’s uniform at the Guggenheim Museum includes a large blue button that reads, “Ask Me About the Art.” Mr. Salter is one of the museum’s gallery guides, a job requiring the attentiveness of a security guard and the empathy of a psychotherapist. Though trained to protect exhibitions, gallery guides roam the Guggenheim to discuss art with visitors.

During impromptu exchanges at the museum, Mr. Salter often taps his training in improvisational theater. “If you are playing a scene and someone doesn’t say anything at first, you are looking for facial expressions and body language,” he said on a recent Saturday afternoon in a Guggenheim conference room. “I think that’s applicable to what I’m doing here.”

He studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center in New York and performs with a troupe called Gayle, named for the television host Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey’s prominent friend.

Mr. Salter, a thin, bearded 27-year-old with an appreciation for the absurd (in a comedic sketch, he portrayed the husband of an eight-pound catfish), laments that museum guards have a reputation as scolds. “We’re not monolithic, authoritarian figures,” he said. “We have these complex lives and are nice people to be around.”

He can be tough if necessary. To command attention while maintaining an affable tone, Mr. Salter drew inspiration from his high school English class. He recalled a teacher “who was, on the one hand, a really accessible, friendly guy, but if you were talking during a lecture, he would let you know that wasn’t acceptable.”

Though he has yet to speak about his museum job on stage, Mr. Salter often finds humor in art. He singled out the work of the whimsical Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who created “Not Afraid of Love,” a life-size sculpture of an elephant cloaked in a bedsheet with holes for its eyes and trunk. “There was something very funny,” he said, “about the proverbial elephant in the room trying to hide itself.”

Linda Smith

Baltimore Museum of Art

Linda Smith is used to being overlooked. Museum visitors, understandably, focus on the art rather than the people protecting the art. “The irony is that the guard is the most visible staff member in the museum,” Ms. Smith said.

Museum guards, in her opinion, deserve more attention, so in 2011 she curated “Guardists,” a gallery exhibition showcasing art by her co-workers. Several pieces sold, including two paintings by Ms. Smith, who earned an M.F.A. from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

She notes that several acclaimed artists have walked in her well-worn shoes. Former guards include Jackson Pollock, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold and Mel Bochner, who will be honored next year with a retrospective at the Jewish Museum in New York — the same institution that fired him as a guard in 1965 for sleeping on duty.

Ms. Smith considers Robert Ryman her guardist role model. “Ryman worked at the Museum of Modern Art for seven years,” she said. “He was not a painter when he started there, but he became one.”

Rather than being daunted by the works on the walls of a museum, Ms. Smith made the case that spending all day around art (or much of the night, the shift she works now) could fuel a competitive spirit. “For many artists,” she said, “if they don’t get a jolt of inspiration from a piece, there’s also the feeling of, ‘Well, I can do something as good as that.’ ”

Guardias, de Hito Steyerl

In Guards (2012), Hito Steyerl pointed out that many museum attendees, standing around venerated works of art, are indeed military veterans, since the private security industry caters to (among others) veterans who can apply their combat training to more docile institutional roles. If we’ve entered an age of privatization, where intelligence, surveillance, prisons and security forces are mostly conducted by private contractors, then it’s important to keep in mind how militarization and privatization directly affect the art world’s own spheres of uncertain symbolic exchange. Fuente: sleek-mag.com

Guards (2012) was shot on location at the Art Institute and features interviews with museum security personnel who have military backgrounds. Intermingled with new and found footage, the interviews explore the officers’ experiences of protecting art and protecting the nation. Fuente: The Art Institute, Chicago

Entrevista con Hito Steyerl (sobre los museos como fábricas, ver a partir de 6:29)

Gracias a Oriol Fontdevila por la información.