Museums, art galleries and other cultural heritage attractions have faced serious security challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic.
As buildings have closed their doors and staff have been sent home, criminals have seen an opportunity to strike. Some museums and galleries have been operating with fewer staff and have also faced severe financial pressures, putting strain on security provision: they have become more vulnerable as a result.
One of the most high-profile thefts occurred in March 2020, when Van Gogh's The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was stolen from the Singer Laren museum, just outside Amsterdam, in an overnight raid. The museum had closed due to Coronavirus restrictions.
This year, Italian police discovered a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in a Naples apartment. The painting was part of the Doma Museum collection at Naples’ San Domenico Maggiore church, but the museum has been closed for months - and no one had reported it missing.
There have been major art thefts closer to home too.
Last year, three paintings thought to be worth millions of pounds – including Anthony Van Dyck's 1616 painting A Soldier on Horseback - were stolen in an overnight heist from the Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford
So how can priceless art and artefacts be protected?
There are many ways of improving physical security in the arts and culture sector – and security challenges and solutions will be in focus at the International Arts and Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF) Conference, taking place from 1-2 September 2021 at the Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel, Darlington.
The IAASF, headquartered in North East England, is dedicated to supporting and educating a global audience in the protection of arts, antiquities and cultural heritage. It aims to provide those involved in the protection and safeguarding of cultural and heritage sites with knowledge that will enable them to play a proactive role in the protection of venues, artefacts and visitors.
The IAASF’s Protecting Cultural Heritage in a Global Pandemic conference will cover threats to sites and assets, current criminal patterns and trends and concepts of security design principles.
It will also give delegates a greater degree of understanding on logistical and insurance considerations, security operational practices and security risk practices.
Speakers at the Protecting Cultural Heritage in a Global Pandemic conference will include Dr Emma Cunliffe, part of the Secretariat for the Blue Shield, an NGO that works with armed forces to protect heritage during conflict, William Brown, National Security Adviser for the Arts Council England, and Sophia Stovall, Head of Development at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
ExMesh™ security – our security brand – is one of the sponsors of the conference and we’ll be at the event to share our knowledge and expertise.
You can find out more about the IAASF’s Protecting Cultural Heritage in a Global Pandemic conference here.
We’ll also be exhibiting our ExMesh™ Securilath™ security mesh at the event, a system which can play a key role in protecting valuable items in museums and galleries.
Securilath™ mesh, which was developed by The Expanded Metal Company in the 1990s - is a discreet method to target harden critical areas. It is used to delay determined intruders from creating an aperture large enough to gain entry to a building or room, and can be situated within internal and external walls, ceilings, roofs and windows.
In a museum or art gallery, Securilath™ can be used to reinforce the level of security in a room that may house valuable items, or stop intruders in one part of a building gaining access to another room or wing by breaking through a partition wall. It can also be used to reinforce external walls.
Security measures which delay intruders can allow security staff or emergency services the time they need to arrive on site once an alarm is raised, thus preventing a theft from taking place.
Securilath™ is the only security mesh range to be certified by the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) when applied to metal stud, timber stud and block walls. It can be easily fitted during construction or retro-fit and is suitable for both render and plaster finishes.