Download PDF version Contact company
 Museum security: integrated security systems to protect the priceless
Museums facing growing security challenge with rise of armed robbery 

It only takes a shocking 58 seconds to steal a painting. Jonas Rehnberg, writer at Assa Abloy Future labs, speaks to former museum security chief Ton Cremers about the safe-keeping of precious artefacts in museums and art galleries.

In 2004, armed, masked robbers stormed into the Munch Museum in Oslo and stole two masterpieces - "The Scream" and "Madonna" - before the eyes of shocked spectators. As a result, the museum closed for nearly a year to update its security measures.

"Protecting priceless objects is a particularly tough challenge for public museums and galleries. These institutions face the conflicting dilemma of keeping objects safe, yet allowing millions of visitors a chance to see them," says Ton Cremers, a former security manager at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum for 15 years.

"A private collector of valuable cultural objects can obviously store the treasures in a strong vault, he doesn't tell people about them and, above all, does not allow total strangers to enter and admire the collection," he says. "Museums, on the other hand, have to do just the opposite. The goal of museum security is not to close its doors but to make sure they are opened to visitors in a responsible manner."

Security systems must start from the roof

"Alarm systems must be attached to a building's outer shell, windows, doors, and on all levels of a building, since experience shows that fifty percent of all thefts take place on the upper floors of a building, or even from the roof. Security measures should not be limited to motion detection inside the building,"Cremers remarks.  

 "The goal of museum security is not to close its doors but to make sure they are opened to visitors in a responsible manner"

"If permitted by the surrounding environment, it is ideal to have a security system that detects intruders as they are approaching the building. Use CCTV cameras with motion detection, infrared detection, or a laser system that continuously scans the outside premises."

Cremers points out that these systems need a lot of maintenance, as the security cameras and scanners used need to be cleaned regularly to prevent false alarms. The fact that many art galleries and museums are housed in historic buildings adds to the complexity of installing adequate security. If a building's construction prevents an upgrade to top-notch, hi-tech devices, security needs to be introduced via internal burglar-resistant compartments. "This requires a lot of creativity and tailor-made solutions," Cremers notes. 

 Schloss Herrenchiemsee, Bavaria
The fact that many galleries are housed in historic buildings adds to the complexity of installing adequate security

 

How and where different objects are displayed inside the museum should also be a part of security planning. The most precious objects should never be placed near the outer shell of a building, a lesson painfully learned by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna a few years ago, when the famous Cellini Salt Cellar was stolen. The theft of this valuable table sculpture, estimated at 30 million euro, took only 58 seconds. At the time, scaffolding was erected outside the building. The thief climbed the scaffolds, then smashed a window and a display case containing the piece.

"There was an alarm system attached to the windows, but no alarm response organisation will be quick enough to react adequately when it is possible to execute a burglary and theft in less than a minute," Cremers notes.  

Dependency on electronic alarm systems

This is a case, Cremers adds, which touches the very core of mistakes many museums make - they depend almost completely on electronic alarm systems.

"These systems are useless if not combined with structural and organizational measures. Security must always be established according to the redundancy principle, which means that if any of the security precautions are tampered with, the remaining measures must be able to do the job."  

Security during opening hours requires the same kind of redundancy thinking, Cremers adds. "Burglar-proof display cases and secured hanging systems for paintings are of limited use unless supported by electronic alarms and vice versa."

Integrated security systems - key to complete solution

Redundancy thinking and integrated solutions are the cornerstones of Cremer's advice when it comes to museum security. Firstly, he says, the organization must be reviewed according to a checklist that includes guards, visitor regulations, entrance checks, alarm response organization, layout of exhibits and routing through the building. The latter refers to a system whereby the visitor is guided through the exhibit along a dedicated path, which not only enhances viewer experience but also counteracts quick getaways following smash-and-grab attempts.  

"No alarm response organization will be quick enough to react adequately when it is possible to execute a burglary and theft in less than a minute" 

In addition, a complete security solution should cover structural issues such as doors, locks, fences, bars, burglar-resistant glass and hanging systems. These are complemented by electronic solutions such as motion detection, infrared systems, sound alarms, CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) systems and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) solutions which are applied to or incorporated into the work of art, in order to locate it if stolen.  

Use of CCTV as a deterrent

CCTV plays a very important part in discouraging prospective burglars, Cremers says: "All museums should have identification cameras and monitors at each entrance. Visitors and staff entering and leaving the building are monitored via CCTV cameras. This setup must be accompanied by a monitor, where the entrant clearly sees his or her image in a monitor. Thieves and robbers frequently pay a reconnoitre visit in advance. If they realise they have already been filmed they might be discouraged from any plans of thievery."  

According to FBI statistics, between 70 and 80 percent of all solved theft cases involve insider participation of some kind, says Cremers drawing attention to an often-overlooked source of crime. "I have been involved in risk assessments in over hundreds of museums over the past ten years, and it is quite astonishing how rarely the risk of insider participation is discussed." 

Growing security challenge for museums 

 National Portrait Gallery, London
All museums should have identification cameras and monitors at each entrance  

Museums and galleries seem to be facing a growing challenge with the rise in armed robbery over the past ten years. However, Cremers believes steps can be taken to fight this. "Security gates at the entrance, fixed routes, CCTV, display cases and exhibiting the paintings behind glass - which makes them heavy and difficult to handle - are a few of the techniques available to combat the growing violence," he says.  

Finally, what happened to the Munch paintings? They were both recovered in 2006 and the museum now sports security measures such as X-ray scanners, metal detectors, and security gates for visitors.  

"All our paintings are now protected with security glass and they're very properly attached to the walls, and of course we have guards and extra surveillance," Jorun Christoffersen, head of marketing at the museum, told CNN. "We consider the paintings as safe to exhibit now." 

Jonas Rehnberg

Jonas Rehnberg
Freelance writer
Assa Abloy Future Labs

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach
Wire-free, mobile first and data rich? The future of access control is within almost anyone’s reach

The 2020s will be a wireless decade in access control, says Russell Wagstaff from ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEA. He examines the trends data, and looks beyond mobile keys to brand new security roles for the smartphone. The benefits of wire-free electronic access control are well rehearsed. They are also more relevant than ever. A wireless solution gives facility managers deeper, more flexible control over who should have access, where and when, because installing, operating and integrating them is easier and less expensive than wiring more doors. Battery powered locks Many procurement teams are now aware of these cost advantages, but perhaps not their scale. Research for an ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions (AAOS) benchmarking exercise found installation stage to be the largest contributor to cost reduction. Comparing a typical installation of battery-powered Aperio locks versus wired locks at the same scale, the research projected an 80% saving in installers’ labour costs for customers who go cable-free. Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks Operating costs are also lower for wireless: Battery powered locks all consume much less energy than traditional wired locks, which normally work via magnets connected permanently to electricity. Wireless locks only ‘wake up’ when presented with a credential for which they must make an access decision. AAOS estimated a 70% saving in energy use over a comparable lock’s lifetime. Find out more about wireless access control at ASSA ABLOY's upcoming 29th June webinar Deploying wireless locks In short, every time a business chooses a wireless lock rather than a wired door, they benefit from both installation and operating cost savings. A recent report from IFSEC Global, AAOS and Omdia reveals the extent to which the advantages of wireless are cutting through. Responses to a large survey of security professionals — end-users, installers, integrators and consultants serving large corporations and small- to medium-sized organisations in education, healthcare, industrial, commercial, infrastructure, retail, banking and other sectors — suggest almost four locations in ten (38%) have now deployed wireless locks as a part or the whole of their access solution. The corresponding data point from AAOS’s 2014 Report was 23%. Electronic access control Electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling Without doubt, electronic access control is less dependent than ever on cabling: Even after a year when many investments have been deferred or curtailed, the data reveals fast-growing adoption of wireless locks, technologies and systems. Is mobile access control — based on digital credentials or ‘virtual keys’ stored on a smartphone — an ideal security technology for this wire-free future? In fact, the same report finds mobile access is growing fast right now. Among those surveyed, 26% of end-users already offer mobile compatibility; 39% plan to roll out mobile access within two years. Before the mid-2020s, around two-thirds of access systems will employ the smartphone in some way. The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights Driving rapid adoption What is driving such rapid adoption? The convenience benefits for everyday users are obvious — witness the mobile boom in banking and payments, travel or event ticketing, transport, food delivery and countless more areas of modern life. Access control is a natural fit. If you have your phone, you are already carrying your keys: What could be easier? IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022 Less often discussed are the ways mobile management makes life easier for facility and security managers, too. Among those polled for the new Wireless Access Control Report, almost half (47%) agreed that ‘Mobile was more flexible than physical credentials, and 36% believe that mobile credentials make it easier to upgrade employee access rights at any time.’ IBM forecasts that 1.87 billion people globally will be mobile workers by 2022. Workers in every impacted sector require solutions which can get the job done from anywhere: Access management via smartphone offers this. Site management device The smartphone is also convenient for gathering system insights. For example, one new reporting and analytics tool for CLIQ key-based access control systems uses an app to collect, visualise and evaluate access data. Security system data could contribute to business success. The app’s clear, visual layout helps managers to instantly spot relevant trends, anomalies or patterns. It’s simple to export, to share insights across the business. Reinvented for learning — not just as a ‘key’ or site management device — the phone will help businesses make smarter, data-informed decisions. The smartphone will also play a major role in security — and everything else — for an exciting new generation of smart buildings. These buildings will derive their intelligence from interoperability. Over 90% of the report’s survey respondents highlighted the importance of integration across building functions including access control, CCTV, alarm and visitor management systems. Genuinely seamless integration They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term Yet in practice, stumbling blocks remain on the road to deeper, genuinely seamless integration. More than a quarter of those polled felt held back by a lack of solutions developed to open standards. ‘Open standards are key for the momentum behind the shift towards system integration,’ notes the Report. As well as being more flexible, open solutions are better futureproofed. Shared standards ensure investments can be made today with confidence that hardware and firmware may be built on seamlessly in the future. They offer greater peace of mind than proprietary solutions which ‘lock you in’ for the long term. Open solutions and mobile management are critical to achieving the goals which end-users in every vertical are chasing: scalability, flexibility, sustainability, cost-efficiency and convenience.

What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?
What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?

Perimeter security is the first line of defence against intruders entering a business or premises. Traditionally associated with low-tech options such as fencing, the field of perimeter security has expanded in recent years and now encompasses a range of high-tech options. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the latest trends in perimeter security technology?

Secure access control is helping to shape the post-pandemic world
Secure access control is helping to shape the post-pandemic world

With the continued rolling back of COVID restrictions in the UK, there is a palpable sense of relief. A mixture of mass vaccinations, widespread testing, and track and tracing of the infection is helping to enable a healthy bounce back for businesses – with secure access control taking an important role in facilitating this. However, rather than just being a reaction to the wake of the pandemic, there is every sign that the economy, and consequently the security sector as well, are both rebuilding and reshaping for the long-term new normal. Prioritising Safety Already deemed an essential service even during the first wave of the pandemic, the security industry has of course taken a vital role in protecting people and property throughout the crisis. Now that venues in the UK are starting to reopen again, our services are key to occupancy management and ensuring that disease transmission is limited as far as possible. Access control is also key in reassuring people that their safety is a priority. Making the upgrade It’s all been about choosing the most suitable components and technology that already existed with a few “tweaks”  Businesses and organisations have a duty of care to their employees and the safety of visitors – so controlling access, employing lateral flow testing, and deploying suitable Track & Trace mechanisms are all key components. I think those outside our industry are surprised to learn that most of the technology being deployed and used hasn’t just magically developed since COVID appeared – it’s all been about choosing the most suitable components and technology that already existed albeit with a few development “tweaks” or adjustments for the situation at hand. This includes using or installing facial recognition readers rather than using fingerprint or contact tokens, it is swapping to automatic request to exit sensors instead of buttons; it is using powered secure doors rather than having people all grab the same handle. Using mobile credentials is also a key technology choice – why not use the highly secure, easy to manage, cost-effective, and of course contact-free benefits of this approach? Touchless solutions We have seen a clear shift in organisations looking to protect their staff and visitors. For instance, we have a big utility customer in Southeast Asia that has just replaced close to 200 sites using fingerprint readers with an additional facial recognition capability. We have also seen a big rise in demand for touchless request to exit sensors and Bluetooth Low Energy Readers for use with smartphone authentication. Working together Integration of security systems is of course nothing new, but in the post-pandemic or endemic age, it has perhaps never been more important. Installations need to be simple, straightforward, and rapid to help maintain safe distancing but also to ensure systems can be deployed as soon as they are needed. The world is changing and developing rapidly and there is simply no place for systems that don’t work with others or cause the end-user considerable cost and inconvenience to upgrade. This flexible delivery of security solutions perfectly matches the evolving and increasing demands of the market. It’s clear that end-users want systems that work well and can easily integrate with their existing systems – not only security but all the other business components which work in unison with each other over a shared network. Great opportunities ahead The recent work-from-home trend is also clearly changing the way organisations and businesses interact with the built environment. Lots of companies are downsizing, offices are being split up, there is lots of revitalisation and reuse of existing office space – all of which creates considerable opportunities for security providers. UK inflation more than doubled in April 2021 with unemployment figures dropping and the Pound rising in value There are also, in the UK at least, clear signs that the construction industry is rapidly growing again -with a forecast of 8% rebound and growth this year. UK inflation more than doubled in April 2021 with unemployment figures dropping and the Pound rising in value – all positive signs for UK-based security providers. Undoubtedly the highly successful UK vaccination rollout has helped considerably, but there are signs that the Eurozone looks set to improve considerably over the next few months as well. Using integrated access control Undoubtedly the pandemic has made security markets around the world more aware of the benefits of integrated access control in managing the needs of the new normal COVID endemic environment. For example, as a business, we have always had keen interest from the UK healthcare sector, but over the last 12 months, we have seen a big growth in previously modest international markets including Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand – all of which are very keen to adopt improved access control solutions. Learning the lessons Nobody would deny the last year or so has been unprecedentedly tough on everyone, as a society we have had to make huge changes and sacrifices. Governments, organisations, and businesses all need to be better prepared in the future, to understand the things that went wrong and those that were successful. However, there is a world beyond the immediate pandemic and its effects. Flexible working practices and the changes these will have to the way we live and work will undoubtedly present great opportunities for the security sector in helping the world evolve. The pandemic has been a wake-up call for many organisations with regards to their duty of care to employees – particularly when it comes to mental health and providing a sensible work/life balance. Where we work and the safety of these facilities has received far more scrutiny than before. Flexible security systems Integrated security solutions have a vital role to play in not only protecting the safety of people during the post-lockdown return to work but also in the evolution of the built environment and move towards smart cities - which inevitably will now need to consider greater flexibility in securing home working spaces rather than just traditional places of work. Importantly, powerful access control and integrated security systems need to be flexible to the uncertainties ahead. The COVID pandemic has shown that nothing can be considered certain, except the need for greater flexibility and resilience in the way we operate our professional and personal interactions.