Protecting museums and galleries around the world with precision security from G4S

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Carsten Schmidt, Global Account Manager for G4S in Denmark and G4S Academy Integrated Solution Specialist, looks at what makes museum security successful and what the potential future developments are in protecting high value artworks. 

When it comes to the protection of famous paintings or artefacts, this thought may evoke for many people a particular scene from the 2005 Ocean’s 12 movie, where a Fabergé Egg is stolen under the cover of darkness and all the thief has to do is not break the moving blue lasers that protect it, with impressive acrobatics. 

The reality of museum security is advanced but such lasers are a myth. Today’s technology is much smarter and more intelligent, taking advanced video monitoring as an example. When planning the security of works by the Great Masters, the secrecy around such an operation is of prime importance and we work with the museum itself, insurers, national security agencies and the museum or gallery ‘lending’ an artwork, to ensure that the security is well-planned and executed. 

All our people are background checked to ensure they are suitable and only a tiny number of people gain access to floorplans to assess what needs to be done. 

Technology advancement 

Some museums and galleries will have multiple exhibitions a year and each time, the security arrangements have to be planned and reviewed from first principles: what do we need to protect and what do we need to protect it from? To do this most effectively we apply our risk-based approach.

The solutions we design are entirely integrated and bespoke. No exhibition is the same and the requirements for video monitoring systems, alarm monitoring, fire protection, physical and mechanical security such as the installation of security doors and the involvement of on-site, mobile and response security professionals has to be planned optimally. This all has to work seamlessly with effective control room monitoring carried out by security operators and analysts. 

Additional considerations that must be planned for and incorporated and are no less important, are the fact that accidents happen and this may be something as simple as ensuring the correct distance from an artwork so that a member of the public doesn’t accidentally fall into or touch an artwork. Other elements we work closely with our customers on is around the environment and how temperature and humidity is controlled. 

The technology we use is advancing all the time, for example we use the latest video monitoring technology and this is overlaid with heat mapping capabilities to track how people are moving around the space or a specific exhibition as well as ‘people-counting’ technology, to understand how many visitors attended. We can use this intelligence not only to improve the arrangements at an ongoing exhibition where we can improve the flow of people and ease any ‘bottle-neck’ areas, but to plan for future shows. 

We incorporate fire protection systems into our security solutions. Sometimes a particularly large-scale temporary installation may require its own entire system, specially designed for the purpose of protecting it and the museum goers who enjoy it. 

Precision is key

The future of museum security is all about precision. There will very likely always be security professionals as part of a solution as well as video monitoring. It is the precision and accuracy of the monitoring that is developing and will become an additional and complementary layer of security, rather than a replacement.

In several years we could be using hidden scanners that focus on a 360 degree area where artwork is on display. We already use this technology today to ensure people don’t get too close to artworks. In the future, a scanner may be positioned inside a wall, ceiling or in the floor to scan and check that all the artworks in its range are safe, secure and in position at all times; analysing various movements, big or small, changes in temperature and light. 

We currently use technology attached discreetly to artworks which silently sets off an alarm if someone, who is not certified to do so, attempts to touch or remove it from a wall or specific location, alerting security professionals and the police to this activity. 

It may not be Hollywood, but our solutions are every bit as impressive and they will become increasingly advanced in the coming years.

Carsten Schmidt is a Global Account Manager for Enterprise Sales for G4S in Denmark and G4S Academy Integrated Solution Specialist, with a particular specialism in Museum Security Solutions.

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