Protect Your Museum

Only 5-10% of stolen art is ever recovered — so preventing thefts in the first place is the most important measure you can take.

There’s much to learn from the blind spots revealed during the Gardner Heist. A fuller staff of on-duty guards may be necessary to adequately keep tabs on the collection in its entirety, both during and after hours. Video surveillance was lacking the night of the heist, an obvious shortcoming; it’s important to have multiple cameras and other tracking devices positioned where thieves can’t see them, since they’ll find a way to dodge them if they can. The way art is physically mounted to the wall can also be a deterrent to would-be thieves: the Gardner thieves simply abandoned works they couldn’t remove from the wall or frame.

Knowledge is power, too. The FBI introduced its art crimes unit in 2004, which equips each agent with knowledge of the art world and the major players involved (as well as high-profile museums and artwork that might become targets for opportunists). For museum security and staff, the Smithsonian holds an annual conference to educate those responsible for protecting cultural property in the latest cutting edge security techniques. Simply recognizing when something seems amiss may be the key to avoiding future heists.

It’s hard to imagine a theft on the scale of the Gardner heist happening today, and that may just be thanks to the updated museum security protocols that followed this earthshaking breach. As savvy museum benefactors and security teams know, well-coordinated logistics make all the difference.


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