Importance of Effective Security For A Museum

The Importance of Effective Security for a Museum

Museums around the world house some incredible items. This may consist of artwork, ancient artifacts, historical documents, and more. And, the last thing that anyone wants is for these items to be left vulnerable in any sense of the word.

And, for this reason, the importance of effective security for a museum is evident.

Is it possible to install a security system in such a large space? Can ever piece within the museum be protected? Does the sheer size of a museum leave anything unmonitored?

Taking the time to properly install an effective security system for a museum is more important than imaginable.


Learn by Previous Happenings

There have been many criminals in the past who have attempted to steal from museums. Rather than regular thefts, these are referred to as heists – because we are talking about intricate plans to steal millions of dollars’ worth of irreplaceable items. Let’s take a look at 3 of the most famous museum heists.

In 1990, at The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA, two thieves portrayed themselves, albeit well, as Boston Police Officers. They managed to convince the guard they were there for legitimate purposes and, through a series of events, walked out with over $500 million in art!

The Mona Lisa is held safely at The Louvre in France. But, that does not mean it has not been subject to attack or theft. In the early 1900’s it was stolen but later recovered. In the 1950’s someone threw acid on the painting.

In 2012, Romanian thieves stole over $24 million in paintings – by Picasso, Matisse, Gaugin, and Monet – from The Kunstahl Museum in The Netherlands. And they did it all in less than three minutes. The paintings have never been recovered and are said to have been burned. But, how did they do it? A small museum, weak security. They actually tripped the alarm, but the response came a little too late. Unfortunately, this heist cost the museum greatly – and it was shut down.

These are just three incidents where museums became victimized – and shows just how important strong security is.


Multi-Layer Security

When it comes to protecting something of great value – such as those items in museums – you need to realize that one layer of protection may not be enough. Think about this for a moment – if you only have one guard to protect an entire museum, you are going to have flaws in protection. He or she is eventually going to use the restroom, maybe sit down and have lunch, or even get distracted by a sound. And at this moment, there is a lack of security. So, you hire more than one security guard, right?

Museums need to have multiple layers of security, such those security guards. But, that’s not all. Choosing to install security cameras, motion sensors, security checkpoints upon entry and exit, glass break technology, and so forth.

How does this help? If someone – or a team of persons – were to overcome one of the security measures, there is always another layer of protection. This slows down the ability to steal the item and makes it that much more difficult. So much so that it may deter someone from even trying!


Installing Effective Security Cameras

Security cameras are wonderful pieces of technology that can allow you to have adequate security of every corner of the museum. Cameras can cover wide areas, including the spaces throughout the viewing area. Of course, you don’t want to stop there. Cameras should be installed at all entry and exits, both public and private, as well as remote hallways, stairwells, and every public area throughout the museum.

Using tools such as night vision and vandal-proof cameras can also be very beneficial. This means that even if the lights go off or someone tries to damage the cameras, they will still work – and they will still be recording.


Constant Monitoring

Security cameras are only effective, though, if they are being monitored, right? You cannot rely on the cameras themselves to be a deterrent. More often than not, museums have on-site security teams that monitor the videos as they are recording from a set office location within the museum itself. Multi-view camera systems allow this individual (or individuals) to view many cameras at one time.

It should be noted, however, that there are monitoring services in which professionals – who are trained in what to look for – monitor your cameras and alert the proper individuals when something is amiss.

In addition to the camera monitoring, it is important – especially during busy hours – to place employees throughout the space to physically monitor the area. While not a necessity, it does add an extra layer of protection throughout the space. After all, there will be those individuals who are monitoring the space through the cameras, being able to view even the most remote corners, too.


Assess Risk and Audit Security

By now, you likely have a good understanding of just how important museum security is. And not just any security, but effective security. But, how do you know if your security meets – or exceeds – the bar?

You have to test it.

Assess your museum’s risk and audit the security in order to have a true understanding of whether or not your system is going to keep the art and artifacts safe. Consider your current security from every angle:

  • Metal detectors
  • Live security guards
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Glass breaking sensors
  • Motion sensors
  • And more.

Even choosing to do test runs, or drills, to determine response to a theft attempt can let you know just where your level of protection is – and allow you to see the flaws so that they may be addressed.


Having a museum effectively secured and protected takes constant monitoring. One lapse in protection or judgment can lead to an unspeakable situation. Use a multi-layer approach to security by installing surveillance cameras appropriately, have them monitored constantly (whether on or off-site), use physical individuals during peak hours, and always keep an eye on those who are entering or leaving the facility.

The cost of one of these stolen or damaged items is priceless. Take the steps necessary to ensure that it can’t happen.

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