Encyclopedia of Security and Emergency Management

Living Edition
| Editors: Lauren R. Shapiro, Marie-Helen Maras

Cultural Institutions Security (Art, Museums, Libraries, National Monuments)

  • Mark DeMarioEmail author
  • John Balestrieri
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69891-5_36-1


Cultural institutions Art Museums Libraries  Aquariums Botanical Gardens and arboretums Historical Sites Monuments Art Theft Keywords Training Guard Deployment Physical Security Special Events Exhibitions Constructions Fire and Life Safety  Law and Legal Issues 


Cultural property protection involves the complex and far-reaching issues securing a wide range of institutions. This entry primarily deals with museums; however, the concepts and considerations can be extended to the types of institutions which have numerous references, legal, and industry standards.


Cultural property protection is a vast topic that includes an array of variables to consider. They face the same threats as every other public institution with the added complexity of protecting collection items while making them accessible to a wide range of visitors from school children to researchers. The items that need protection may be the property itself, irreplaceable art or artifacts, living animals or plants, and in some cases items in open public spaces. Events in the early part of the twenty-first century have resulted in a rise in violent attacks on artwork and at cultural properties of all types along with the overall increases in crimes including loss of human life. The value of art, insurance, and liability issues have necessitated a more serious focus on security in cultural properties. An incident of any kind can affect an institution’s reputation with the public, groups, or other professional organizations. These may impact attendance; the ability to get loans, funding, or grants; increases in insurance premiums; and the ability to secure loans.

Types of institutions are:
  1. 1.


  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    Botanical gardens and arboretums

  5. 5.

    Historical sites

  6. 6.



Personnel and Hiring of Security Force

The responsibility of any Security Director is to staff the security team with competent and able individuals. This task starts with the hiring process. The first step in that process is to post the position on any of the various job websites that provide suitable candidates for any position. The resumes must be read and analyzed to find the right candidates for the position. Suitable applicants are then scheduled for interviews. The number of resumes is then parred down to a manageable number; thus, interviewer starts the interview process. The interviewer must begin by stating the requirements of the position. It is important to point out the need to be available to work weekends, holidays, evenings, and nights. If the candidate is not willing or able to meet the basic requirements of the position, the interview should be terminated.

Once the basic requirements are met, the in-depth part of the interview begins. The questions poised must be able to draw out the personality of the candidate without being too intrusive. Questions should include the candidate’s experience, the history of employment, gaps in the employment list, etc. In addition, the candidate must be articulate, well-mannered, and present a professional appearance. The interviewer should review all pertinent documents such as DMV license (if required), address verification, security license, employment authorization card (EAD) or green card, military discharge papers (dd214),testimonial letters, passport, and training certificates. During this process it must be established that the applicant is legally able to work in the United States. The interviewer must ascertain if the candidate has the ability to act independently when necessary based on the policies and procedures of the institution.

Once the candidate is chosen, the Human Resource Department must perform a background check to include criminal, financial, education, and employment. The candidate must present three references which must be verified.

When background and references are confirmed and found to be acceptable, the Security Director or Manager must ensure that the candidate’s licenses and permits are valid and up-to-date. Once the process is satisfactorily completed, the candidate will be notified with an offer of employment and a starting date confirmed.

Guard Staffing, Training, and Deployment

Perhaps, the most overlooked and underappreciated aspect of cultural property protection is the uniformed security officer or guard. The human element is essential to any modern well-run and efficient security program. A well-trained officer can prevent almost any damage, theft, or problem that may arise on a cultural property floor. It is entirely up to the institution as to whether the officers are armed or unarmed. If they are armed, the institution must ensure that they are licensed and nave completed any required training deemed necessary by the licensing agency.

The guards must be well dressed in uniforms that ensure the public has the ability to see them in a crowded gallery or area. The uniforms should consist of a jacket, slacks, white shirt, tie, and black shoes. A patch of insignia of the institution is usually located on the pocket of the jacket or the sleeve. The uniforms should point out the authority of the guard while not being too militaristic. If the guard has outdoor post duties, the appropriate gears such as parka with insignia, jacket, and rain gear must be issued, as well as necessary equipment including flashlights, electronic post-monitoring equipment, and hats.


Once the candidate is hired, the training regimen is commenced. In most states, each security guard must be licensed. The training for the license consists of an 8-h pre-employment training and a 16-h post-employment training. Additional, annual 8-h training is required in order to maintain the guard’s license. Each institute must conduct training sessions tailored to the specific site. The guard must be trained on fire safety, including location of fire exits, exits in the building, location and type of fire extinguishers, emergency and evacuation procedures, customer service training, and conflict resolution. Additional training by reputable professionals should be included to inspire, educate, and motivate security personnel. An in-depth insight at fire, emergency, and customer service training is covered later in the chapter (Nemeth 2018).

The guards should be well informed regarding the collection they are protecting. The presence of guards not only protects the collection, but they are fine representative of the cultural institution. In almost every museum, the security guard is the first and last member of the museum staff that is visible to the visitors. The modern-day museum guard must possess the necessary skills to handle diplomatically school children visitors on a class trip, the high-end donors, and everyone in between. In order to obtain these skills, the uniformed guard must be trained. This training is not universal in its approach. Each museum, library, and other cultural institution is unique unto itself, and thereby, the training must be specific to the building or site to which they are assigned. Additional information regarding training can be found later in the chapter.


The Security Director or Manager has two options when hiring security guards. The choices are to hire propriety guards or contract (“rent”) guards, both having its advantages and disadvantages.

The propriety guard is hired by the institution. There three advantages of employing guards in this manner rather than renting them through a third party. First the guards are trained by the security management staff at the institution, allowing them to become well versed and knowledgeable in the operation and use of the building in which they working in. Second they will develop a sense of loyalty to the institution and feel as though they are an integral part of the staff. Third propriety guards have the advantage of generous compensation packages including annual vacation, sick time, healthcare coverage, retirement plans, and sometimes even tuition reimbursement.

There are three disadvantages to hiring propriety guard. First the cost of employing a propriety staff is much more than a contract company. Second the administrative challenges are many, sick time, vacation time, and disciplinary matters. Third some guards are governed by union contracts that are negotiated and must be adhered to. All of these are a burden on the hiring institution.

In contrast, the advantages of contracting with a company is that it is generally less expensive to the institution as the agreed upon price is paid and all other costs (e.g., equipment, uniforms, compensations packages) are absorbed by the contract company. The contract company deals directly with the union both contract and any other problem. The advantage of a contract company is that the hiring institution does not have to abide by formal disciplinary procedures to deal with unsatisfactory performance. The contract guard benefit package is generally less costly to the hiring institution. Another disadvantage is that contract guards have no loyalty or commitment to the institution that they are assigned. This can create a lackluster performance. They are generally less trained and, for the most part, not well versed in security practices and procedures. If a contract firm is used, the hiring company must check that the contract companies’ certificate of insurance is up to date and a copy must be maintained by the Security Director. In addition the hiring company must establish what equipment the contract company is responsible for, i.e., flashlights, uniforms, radios, etc. The contract firm must provide and keep an updated list of the guard’s licenses and other pertinent information.

Many museums employ the hybrid system. They hire a staff of propriety guards and supplement them with contract guards. This has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. The favoring factors are that the number of contract guards can vary according to the needs of the institution. For example, a museum has a popular exhibition without a sufficient number of propriety guards to protect the exhibition. The museum hires contract guards to fill the void for the duration of the exhibition. When the exhibition ends, the contract guards are dismissed. This is a cost savings to the museum. The disadvantage is that contract guards are compensated less than propriety guards and are performing the same functions. This leads to conflicts between the guards and can cause personal problems among the guards, thus causing substandard protection of the collection and the visitors.

Guard Deployment

The standard policy for almost every museum is to have a guard within eyesight of each piece of art or display.

Some institutions have adopted the roaming guard policy. This policy dictates that guards roam from one gallery to another, thereby leaving art pieces unprotected and open to theft, damage, or other problems. The roaming guard concept is a result of money-saving attempts by the institution. Another money-saving attempt is to hire gallery attendants to replace security guards. These attendants are not routinely trained in fire safety, emergency methods, and first aid practices; they are generally less observant.

These cost-saving measure places the collection, visitors, and staff in jeopardy. The risk is too high to consider. It takes just one individual with nefarious intentions to not only ruin a priceless piece of art but also damage the reputation of the museum or cultural institution.

Physical Security

The Security Director or Manager is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the priceless pieces of art, artifacts, antiquities, books, manuscripts, and sometimes living assets. This is predominantly performed by the guard staff and assisted by the use of physical exterior and interior security. Exterior security includes, but not limited to, fencing, camera (night vision) bollards, gates, and barriers. Interior security includes, but is not limited to, doors, locks, stanchions, cameras, motion detectors, access control, and glazing, to name a few. Each of the aforementioned should be utilized on a site-specific manner.

Exterior: The area directly in front of the building or site that is being protected should be clear of any obstructions. Shrubs, trees, debris, etc. should be cleared away from any door, gate, or other entrance. Parking lots should not be directly adjacent to the building or site. Parking lots should be a safe distance from the building in order to provide adequate security.

Perimeter lighting is an essential element to any physical security plan. Based on the type of institution, the lighting should be tailored to produce sufficient lighting to protect the area from intrusion and also provide a sense of security and safety to staff and visitors. There are minimum standards for lighting various spaces. See the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, Guidelines for People, Property and Public Space. There are several types of lighting that are used for certain applications. They are as follows:
  • Incandescent (generally used in home or offices this type is being phased out by the government)

  • Mercury vapor lamps

  • Metal halide

  • Sodium vapor lights

  • Quartz lamps

  • LED

  • Electroluminescent

  • Halogen


Zoos or wildlife parks are one such venue that require exterior fencing. The use of fencing, moats, and glass enclosures protect the public from animals, insects, birds, reptiles, and them from the public. When installing chain-link fencing for spaces other than zoos or wildlife refuges, the fencing should meet the US Department of Defense specifications. See their website for more information. When installing fencing or enclosures for zoos or wildlife refuges, see the Zoological Association of America Standards 2016. For the safety of the animals, staff, and visitors within the museum arena, the use of stanchions is more prevalent than other cultural properties. Well-placed stanchions act as barriers to protect art work. However, many museums curators frown upon their use believing they detract from the public’s ability to properly view and enjoy the art. This is a continuing dilemma for the security professional and the museum’s curatorial staff. Another method of protection is the use of sandpaper tape. This tape is placed on the floor in front of the art work. It can easily be stepped over, but it acts as a deterrent to keep the public at arms distance away.


Many pieces of art are protected by glazing. Glazing is the process of placing a piece of museum glass over and existing piece of art. This glazing not only protects the art from the intentional or unintentional touching from the public, it also protects the art from harmful UV sunlight rays that may damage the art. Again, some artists refuse to allow this process adding an extra burden to the security professional.

Doors and Locks

Doors and locks are the most common and one of the best methods of protecting priceless works. The use of doors should be limited to protecting areas of the museum that are not accessible to the general public. Each of these entranceways should be equipped with electronic means of operation, i.e., card access (electronic access will be discussed later in the chapter) allows the security staff to limit access to areas and the ability to monitor said space to record who entered and what time the space was entered. If the institution uses a traditional lock system (key), the security department must maintain an up-to-date key register. Keys should never be issued unless they are approved by the department head and authorized by the Security Director.

Bollards and Barriers

Stone planters decorated with colorful flowers, shrubs, etc. line front of buildings. These planters or bollards serve a dual purpose. First they protect the area from any attempt to drive a vehicle through the front, side, or rear of the building. They are an effective method of stopping a terrorist from carrying out their attacks, plowing into the building with a bomb. Second, they add a sense of beauty to the area. There should also be intrusion-protective devices, drum-type barriers, retractable barriers, and sliding gates used at entrances to parking areas to prevent vehicles from entering secure areas (Nemeth 2018).

The Security Director along with the Facilities Manager must be aware of the potential threat of someone attempting to sabotage the building’s HVAC systems. Precautions must be taken to protect all vents, access pipes, and other building access ports.

Cameras, access control, motion detectors, glass protection, as well as any other electronic security devices will be covered later in the chapter.

Alarms and Electronic Systems

Intrusion, Perimeter, and Specialty Alarms

The use of electronic alarms and surveillance has become an integral part of cultural property security and has greatly expanded the ability to monitor items or spaces with degrees of accuracy well beyond what can be accomplished by staff alone. Ideally, there would be multiple independent systems in place with overlapping coverage (in case of the event that one is compromised, intentionally or accidentally). The system should be self-monitoring and programmed to issue a warning if there is a breach or failure. It should also be supervised on-site and through an off-site central station with contact to local law enforcement, fire service, museum management, and any other preselected contacts in the event of an emergency.

Video Surveillance

Technological advancements have greatly expanded the use of video systems to monitor a space or object, serve as a deterrent, or aid in investigating an incident. Through the use of intelligent video technology, cameras can be used effectively to isolate spaces and monitor conditions, license plates, faces, persons, etc. This is especially important when critical or large areas need to be covered. Integrating alarm and access control systems with the video system can also be used to verify staff locations and record detailed activities, criminal, or otherwise.

States of Operation

A sound foundation of cultural property protection (CPP) requires a complete knowledge of the institution, personnel, structures, and grounds along with a properly trained staff as well as having the necessary policies, procedures, and systems in place. Understanding the various states of operation is essential to anticipating and preparing for the inherent risks CP face. Some circumstances may require additional or specialized staff, inspections, procedures, and the notification of outside agencies (i.e., fire service, insurance carriers, etc.).

The first four normal states of operation present well-understood risks which are handled with policies and procedures specific to the institution (Liston 1993). The last two special states present a number of risks which must be identified in advance. In all cases, emergency plans must be developed and practiced in advance since they can occur in any state.

The six states of operation are as follows.
  • State 1: Open to Staff and Public

    This state is an institution’s normal operating business hours. During this state of operation, both public visitors and everyday staff – office, shop, concessions, etc. – may be present.

  • State 2: Open to Staff, Closed to Public

  • This state covers any time staff members are expected to be at the institution, but the institution is not open to the public.

  • State 3: Closed to Staff, Open to Public

  • This state is when the institution is open to the public, but most of the staff is not present. This state primarily covers public hours when office or back of house staffs are not present.

  • State 4: Closed to Staff and Public

  • This state is when the institution is closed to everyone. The only people in the building should be museum facilities and security staff as well as any other personnel essential to the operation of the facility and may include researchers or persons working on special projects.

There are, however, two special states that present additional risks and need to be considered.
  • State 5: Special Events

  • Basic special events such as tours, lectures, group visits, or meetings that occur during normal business hours are usually well handled with simply providing additional security to that event (if necessary). Larger and more complex events or those that extend into back of house spaces or take place after hours require coordination with internal and external parties. They sometimes expose the institution to potential problems, for example, outside personnel access to ordinarily restricted spaces, deliveries, storage of items, and removal of materials, equipment, or debris. Preparation, consumption of food, alcohol, and generally dealing with guests on site that may be there for purposes other than viewing the collection may present issues in terms of behavior or expectations. Special events also may include photo or film shoots, which may present risks inherent with having equipment or persons in close proximity to collections. Making sure all special events are separated from visitors (if possible) and do not disrupt the visitor experience be should be anticipated. Most events require coordination between departments, such as public relations, operations, exhibition design, visitor services, conservation, and, of course, security.

  • State 6: Construction Projects

  • Construction projects within the institution or with adjacent structures present a host of situations that may put the structure, collection visitors, or staff in jeopardy. Access for workers and material, in addition to the inherent risks of construction operations, require careful coordination with all internal and external stakeholders. While each project is unique, the security department is usually tasked with monitoring several key activities. Protection of the staff, guests, institution, and collections is the overall responsibility of the security department. Access control, fire system operation, life safety alarm systems, as well as threat of and response to emergencies are among the primary responsibilities of the security department. Proper planning should include modifications to standing policies and procedures which address the special additional concerns. These adjustments should address access issues, changes to normal operating procedures, and emergency response. This may require additional or specialized staff and training. They should include a site safety plan, trained construction safety personnel, and fire guards. Regular staff should also receive specialized training if they would need to access spaces as part of their regular work or in emergency situations. During the state of construction projects, the security department will work closely with construction managers, facilities, conservation, exhibition design, and any other departments involved with the project.

Protection of Collections


Security’s place in the protection of the collection is varied in that they must protect the collection or borrowed work and still allow the visitors to view and enjoy the art. Additionally, security is responsible for the protection of the cultural institution’s collection when it is not on exhibit.

There are certain fundamental precautions and procedures that must be instituted by the security department to deter or prevent anyone from causing damages intentional or unintentional to the collection on exhibit. The use of guards, stanchions, sandpaper tape, vitrines, tethering to the wall, museum wax, and glazing is some of the traditional methods of protection an exhibition. For more information, refer to the American Museum Association. The use of cameras, motion detectors, and RFID tags (radio-frequency ID tags) is employed by many institutions to protect the collection.

Security must be knowledgeable as to the number and demographic makeup of the visitors. Is the exhibition appealing to a younger visitor – teen and/or child? If so, there are procedures that must be followed. Are strollers or baby carriages allowed on the exhibition floor? Are the children permitted to roam about unattended? For elderly or physically challenged visitors, are there wheelchairs, etc.? If a particular exhibition is popular, there should be a limit as to the number of visitors permitted in a gallery to avoid art damage and avoid emergency evacuation problems. School tours are a vital component of most museums. Guards must be assigned to every school tour that visits the museum. The uniformed guards must be well informed as to the value of each piece of art. They must give special attention to said pieces.

When an exhibition is borrowed (most museums lend and borrow art exhibits), the Security Director, in coordination with the Registrars, is committed to the borrowing policies set forth by the lending institution. Policies may call for a particular piece of art to be assigned to a dedicated guard during business hours and also during special events or tours that may take place. In addition, they may require special alarms, cameras, or RFID tags. If the piece is moved, an alarm is sounded and security is alerted. Some borrowing requirements are so stringent that they require that everyone be searched prior to entering the gallery.

Storage of the collection is another proponent of the protection of the collection. Every museum acquires art by purchase or from donations. These priceless pieces when not on exhibition must be stored. The storage facility must be temperature and humidity controlled, protected from fire, flood, theft, and any other disaster, natural or man-made. The storage site must be unobtrusive in nature, i.e., no signage indicating what the site is. The site must have state-of-the-art intrusion protection, early warning fire and smoke detection, and sprinkler systems that extinguish a fire and, at the same time, prevent any extensive water damage to the collection.

Admittance to the site must be limited only to the employees. The employees must be vetted and complete a background check. This must include a criminal, financial, and character investigation. When the facility is closed, no one should be permitted entry unless previously approved by the Head of the Curatorial Department after consulting with the Security Director.

Protection of Collections: Off-Site, In Transit, and Loans

Protecting collection pieces when not in the primary facility is complex since the control of the location and resources are harder to manage and maintain. Standard Facilities Reports used to record and verify a wide range of information about the institution, it’s physical structure, security, fire, climate control, provisions for handling and packing, insurance, previous temporary exhibitions, and loans. In order to provide the same level of care there must be a full understanding of possible risks and vulnerabilities. Then planning and providing manpower and physical and electronic security, all other logistical considerations to accomplish the task must be implemented. In some cases, the collection pieces are exterior monuments or exist on extensive grounds or in parks. In other cases, the off-site location may be a storage facility, a research laboratory, or archeological site. The security plan should be developed, along with the subject matter experts, taking into consideration laws and customs, and with the cooperation of local governmental and emergency response providers. In all cases, financial planning is an essential part of the plan.

Collection sites are any location, active or inactive, where specimens, artifacts, or remains are collected. They may include archeological, underwater, previous civilization, or burial sites. Legal issues involve access permits, protests, as well as poachers, criminal activity, and vandalism. Collection sites on public roads, parks, and city streets require special plans to separate and protect both assets and the public from related activities. Specialized training, licenses or staff may be required; each should be considered and planned well in advance. Transportation, communications, living accommodations, and medical care also need to be provided depending on site location. Emergency response and evacuation plans especially for remote or difficult locations must be completed and exercised.

In-transit protection of collection pieces, artwork antiques, documents, animals, plants, etc. is of great concern due to the additional risks presented while traveling. Factors to consider while preparing a risk analysis are value, vulnerability, distance, insurance requirements, and legal issues. The means and methods of transportation, requirements for care, environmental considerations, and packing are established by subject matter experts. The security arrangements are made along with the security management team after considering insurance, legal, and jurisdictional requirements. Care should be exercised in making travel arrangements in addition, accommodations for protection of items being transported, and overnight security, if necessary. Provisions may include armed or unarmed security escorts, climatized storage facilities, and emergency response while in transit. Maintaining communication with staff assigned to monitor movement and having continuous GPS tracking is common providing real-time tracking of personnel, vehicles, and cargo. Emergency and contingency planning should also be included.

Borrowed art, collections, objects, specimens, etc. are a primary concern for security and may require additional protection planning delineated in the loan agreement. These will be considered while preparing the lender’s loan agreement and outlining, among other things, security and insurance requirements. They may also cover transportation requirements, escorts, documents, and import/export custom-related issues, which are usually coordinated through exhibition management staff along with security management. Exhibition designs that require the removal of existing collections, and the insertion of new ones, present a number of logistical and security-related issues, considering that the objects or specimens are most vulnerable to damage or theft while being handled, packed, or transported. Access and credentials for movers, couriers, and staff to restricted areas must be strictly controlled.


Security management must consider short- and long-term considerations from design considerations, through construction and commissioning, and into operation. All of these issues affect the construction costs and, as importantly, the operating costs. Local or national codes and regulations dictate the bare minimum required for occupancy, access, evacuation, fire, and life safety; however, they do not address the specific needs of cultural institutions. A comprehensive security survey must be prepared to determine project requirements. The survey should include access, guard placement, technology, and operating costs. By including security management and consultants who are experts in the cultural property protection field, changes, or even more costly retrofits, can be avoided. In addition, peer reviews are another frequently used method to ensure that the project is considering the myriad of threats and issues inherent in construction projects. The issue of construction on adjacent properties must also be carefully considered since they can affect site access and present a long list of hazards to staff, guests, collections, and the institution itself. In the case of any construction or renovation project, special security provisions should be made for day-to-day operations as well as emergency scenarios.

Security involvement in internal and external renovation or construction projects is well beyond the realm of ordinary access issues. Security management must be involved in every phase of the project.

Environmental Considerations

Environmental monitoring and control are most often handled by facilities and the exhibition staff with the advice of the conservation staff within well- documented criteria, i.e., custom details for the specific pieces. American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air- Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Applications 2015 includes a section on Museums, Galleries, Archives, and Libraries. The most fundamental environmental conditions are temperature and humidity. While not always critical to the collection, extremes conditions can present problems for guards and staff potentially affecting their performance, health, and well-being. Awareness of and possible exposure to gasses or chemicals used in laboratories, conservation, shops, or other day-to-day operations that security officers may encounter should also be considered. Carbon monoxide and combustible gas sensors should be incorporated in areas where these may be present. Security officers working alone, or in contained spaces, such as guard booths or patrol vehicles, should be further trained as to risks, detection, and prevention. Security staff should be trained on other environmental factors which could be hazardous to themselves, other people, and the collection, which may include animals, plants, etc.

In some cases, security personnel may be involved in completing environmental checks since they can easily be incorporated to normal rounds and inspections. Security should be trained as to how to identify and report environmental abnormalities. This should include water leaks, odors, or any other situations which differ from the norm. Training must include how to deal with exposure to harmful materials they may encounter while doing their normal work. In the event of an emergency, training should be in adherence to regulatory agencies and good industry practices and proper notifications, such as staff, emergency, and hazmat responders.

Fire, Life Safety, Emergency Planning Business Continuity


Museums are vulnerable to fire and the threat of fire then most other cultural institutions. Museums, libraries, house and exhibit books, and art works by their very nature are ignition sources for fire. Every institution must have in place a viable and up-to-date fire safety plan. The fire safety plan must be written and updated regularly. Changes in exhibitions will cause different paths of egress within gallery spaces. Roles must be defined and updated on a continuous basis. The fire plan must include every department and staff member. Fire prevention is everyone’s duty and responsibility.

Fire plans must include a trained hierarchy of to respond to alarm and fire conditions and may include designated personnel such as an incident commander, wardens, searchers, and a fire brigade if appropriate. A comprehensive fire prevention plan must be developed and rigorously followed. The plan should include daily, weekly, monthly, and annual inspections to assure that the entire property is free from hazards and that all equipment and systems are fully tested and operational. Fire drills and training for all personnel is essential.

Sprinkler systems in various configurations are the most common type of fire suppression systems used in cultural institutions and include sprinklers, pre-action, and mist and in some locations deluge systems. Selection of the appropriate system must take into consideration what is being protected and the risk of collateral damage. Special extinguishing agents may be needed especially in laboratories, conservation, food preparation areas, or where high value or irreplaceable items are stored or exhibited. In some cases, low-oxygen environments or other specially designed environments should be utilized. Conversely, some locations may not require any suppression system at all but should still be considered and agreed to by all institutional partners and confirmed with local authorities and insurance company.

Fire Alarm Systems

Fire alarm systems are necessary in most CP environments and must be maintained and monitored continuously. An on-site fire alarm panel is used to monitor and collect information, annunciate alarms, communicate with off-site central station, and activate the fire suppression system. Fire alarm systems are usually mandated by local jurisdiction and often referred to standards, such as NFPA 909: Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties and NFPA 914: Fire Protection of Historic Structures. The selection and placement of manual and automatic devices should be designed based on the specific conditions and circumstances of the institution. Design, coordination, and integration should be done with the involvement of consultants who specialize in the field and are familiar with current codes, practices, technologies, regulations, and industry-specific standards.

Emergency Planning and Business Continuity

Emergency planning should be approached after careful consideration of risk analysis to the organization, collection staff, or guests. This is essential of preparing the overall protection plan and the emergency plan. It must be done in collaboration with the collection executive staff, conservation, and finance facilities and include the needs of all constituents. It is advisable to engage local emergency responders to familiarize them with special requirements, access, and equipment. Notification of staff and outside vendors via preestablished, procedures should be in place so that communication can be expedited. In addition, a prioritized list should be made for the relocation or in situ protection of property, artifacts, and records. Supplies of equipment and materials should be stored off-site, and arrangements for additional supplies should be planned. It is also advisable to have storage facilities and reciprocal arrangements with nearby cultural properties in the event of an emergency. The plan must be agreed to, adopted, implemented, and practiced on an on-going basis. Emergency procedures and the disaster recovery plans should cover all foreseeable disasters and emergencies.

Life Safety

The cultural property must be prepared for any type of emergency, whether it is man-made or a natural occurrence. The institution must have an emergency action plan (EAP). This plan should address any emergency other than fire which is covered in the aforementioned fire safety plan. Prior to writing an EAP, a vulnerability study should be conducted to ascertain the vulnerabilities that may affect the institution. When this study is completed, an EAP tailored to the needs of the institution can be created. The EAP should include provisions for evacuation of the site, sheltering in place, active shooter procedures, saving the collection and other valuables, alerting emergency responders, and the handling of the media. In addition to the EAP, there must be procedures for handling medical emergencies. The security staff should also be trained in first aid, CRP, and the use of AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Every emergency or fire plan requires testing, constant updating, involvement from all staff, drills, and after incident reviews to ensure that the safety and well-being of the institution is preserved.

Law and Legal Issues

Similar to the overall topic of cultural property protection, cultural property law must address all of the issues faced by other organizations with the added complexity of dealing with collection specific issues ranging from vandalism to animal rights. The primary legal issues that involve the security department are those that relate to guard actions concerning authority and responsibilities of security officers. Whether armed or unarmed, the local or national laws that outline guard actions, investigations, apprehension, detention, arrest, or use of force must be incorporated in the development of policies and procedures. In addition, security management must be aware of civil law that may affect the guard force and performing tasks such as assisting in medical situations, completing incident reports or occupational health issues. Labor law is another area often referenced due to the wide range of situations that security departments deal with.

Art law includes a wide range of issues dealing with the protection of the creative process, marketing, sale, and ownership of art. Disciplines including intellectual property, contract, constitutional, tort, tax, and commercial and international law must be considered. There are a number of laws and agreements that aid in deterrence, investigation, and prosecution of crimes committed against cultural properties. Others relate to theft, transport, sale, ownership of art, antiquities, remains, protected species, etc. (Lind et al. 2002).

The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and the subsequent UNESCO Convention (1999) on the Means of pProhibiting and pPreventing the iIllicit iImport, eExport and tTransfer of oOwnership of cCultural pProperty and mission to “maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge by assuring the conservation and protection of the world’s inheritance of works of art and monuments of history,” (UNESCO 1994) addresses the protection cultural properties, contents, collections art, and artwork on an international level.

Subsequent to the incident at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in 1990, US laws have been established to aid in the investigation and prosecution of art theft crimes. The Theft of Major Artwork Statue signed in 1994 made it a federal crime to steal from museums and libraries. It defines institutions, theft, possession transport, and types and value of property covered. It gives authority to the FBI to investigate and prosecute art- or artifact-related crimes which previously were not within their jurisdiction. Interpol, Scotland Yard, along with agencies, such as, the Art Loss Registry, has strengthened the overall identification of investigation and prosecutions related to and return of missing or stolen art (Chaffinch 2008).


Protection of the world’s most cherished works of art, artifacts, antiquities, monuments, books, manuscripts, and endangered wildlife is a challenging and onerous task which employees nearly every facet of the security field, from the basic security guard duties to employing the most sophisticated technology. The entire spectrum of security is used to ensure that the public has the ability to enjoy viewing these priceless works while continually protecting them from theft, or damage, whether intentional or unintentional.



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  7. UNESCO Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. 1999.Google Scholar
  8. Zoological Association of America 2016 Standards for Animal Fencing and Enclosures. For Safety of Animals, Staff, and visitors.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. FBI Art Theft Program 1994 − Theft of major artwork 18 USC Sect 668.Google Scholar
  2. FBI Art Theft Program 1994 − Theft of major artwork 18 USC Sect 3294.Google Scholar
  3. FBI Art Theft Program 1994 − Theft from interstate shipment 18 USC Sect 659.Google Scholar
  4. FBI Art Theft Program 1994 − Illegal trafficking in native American remains and cultural items 18 USC Sect 1170.Google Scholar
  5. FBI Art Theft Program 1994 − Theft of Government Property 18 USC Sect 641 and 2114.Google Scholar
  6. Fischer, R., Halibozek, E., & Walters, D. (2012). Introduction to security (9th ed.). Newton: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  7. Layne, S. P. (2014). Safeguarding cultural properties. Security for museums, libraries, parks and zoos. Waltham: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA