Vault Your Collection to Security

On May 23rd the Connecting to Collections Online Community hosted a free webinar on collections security. Consultant (and a former police chief) Stevan Layne  presented some great advice on protecting collections. Click the online community portal to link to Layne’s PowerPoint presentation on preventing collections loss, as well as a technical leaflet he wrote for AASLH, entitled “An Ounce of Prevention.” Two of the highlights of his presentation included points about developing a “Collections Protection Plan” and a daily closing procedure checklist.

Get all staff, volunteers, and contractors involved in your institution’s collections protection plan. Make sure they are familiar with it and feel comfortable suggesting revisions. All hands on deck need to use their eyes and ears for observing and reporting suspicious activities or potential problems.

  • A person funtioning on your institution’s behalf should serve as an initial visible deterrent to theft. The same idea that Walmart perpetuates with its greeters can help your collection become secure.
  • Set up physical barriers when possible between the public and collection treasures. These can be elaborate and expensive exhibit cases, simple stantions, or less obtrusive. For instance, monofilament can secure objects to riser blocks or to table tops in historic houses.
  • Establish regular and irregular patrols. Eyes and ears working on behalf of your collection should get around as much as possible and as often as possible.
  • Consider electronic or solar-operated security devices. Video surveillance in storage areas may be an unattainable ideal for small institutions, but sign-in sheets and limited key access should be achievable.
  • Establish reasonable policies and procedures for collection security. Make sure all workers at your institution become familiar with, contribute to, and implement them. The guidelines you set should consider storage and internal theft opportunities as well as securing collections on exhibit.

Because the vast majority of museum thefts are internal and because most theft overall is related to substance abuse, conduct pre-employment screenings and consider annual screenings for all staff members, volunteers, and contractors.

Develop a checklist for closing procedures. A staff member should be responsible for conducting and signing the list each day. Fire outweighs any other threat to cultural institutions and many of these measures can help prevent or mitigate that danger.

  • Disconnect small appliances such as coffee pots and space heaters. Humidifiers and de-humidifiers may be helping your collection’s RH needs, but consider unplugging them when staff are absent.
  •  Close interior doors; check locks on all doors and windows.
  • Remove trash; keep exit routes clear of debris and clutter.
  • Make sure flammable chemicals such as cleaners are stored properly. A closed metal cabinet works well for this purpose.
  • Note the license plate numbers of any potentially suspicious vehicles in parking lots.

Three additional tips:

  1. Keep artifact moves unpublicized. The fewer people who are aware, the smaller the risk of unwelcome intervention.
  2. Consider MOAB training for your staff. This program is designed to teach strategies for dealing with aggressive behavior. Problem interactions could stem from visitors to your institution or even from within the staff itself.
  3. Any time an incident occurs, review policies and procedures and conduct retraining exercises. An unfortunate event will serve as a reminder for all those involved in your institution of the importance of collection security and give them fresh ideas for making improvements.

About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on June 12, 2012, in collections access, collections management, disaster preparedness, fire, hurricanes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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