ICOM's International Committee for Museum Security
Le Comité international de l'ICOM pour la sécurité
dans les musées (ICMS)
and Gallery Security
Museums Security Adviser
Museums & Galleries Commission
London, United Kingdom
Museums Security Adviser issues the following advice applicable
for buildings housing collections which need to be protected
from theft and damage, and where a level of security has
to be achieved by those wishing to take advantage of the
MGC Registration Scheme, Government Indemnity Scheme, Lottery
funding and preparing general security improvement programmes.
Museums should assess the risks to their collections from
such threats as fire, water, theft, vandalism, and take
appropriate steps to meet them, seeking specialist advice
as necessary. This will include the identification of particularly
vulnerable areas and collections, the requirement for physical
protection and alarm systems, staff invigilation, key security
systems, inventory check procedures, and insurance arrangements.
Where weaknesses are identified, museums should make an
assessment of the additional requirements and plan to meet
them within an appropriate timescale.
is suggested that a policy decision needs to be made as
to whether the building will be manned 24 hours a day. If
it is to be so occupied then some limitation on the strength
of the defensive measures is acceptable. If not, then the
strongest possible defenses should be built in at an early
may be intended that the security arrangements of the building
should be of the standard required to obtain the grant of
Government Indemnity for exhibition of borrowed artifacts.
It must be understood that even if the standards discussed
in this paper are achieved there will not be automatic grant
of indemnity for each and every proposed exhibition. Each
application is considered individually, taking into account
the nature, value, attractiveness, portability and disposability
of the material forming the exhibition. In the case of very
high risk exhibitions, such as the display of valuable gold
artefacts, it may be necessary to impose additional security
conditions such as the deployment of 24-hour guards before
indemnity can be granted.
efficient intruder detection system may promptly identify
an intrusion into a building and cause a message to be sent
for the police to respond, but it provides no form of resistance
to intruders. This can only be done by physical means, which
can often defeat the intruder or at least buy time for police
to attend in response to the activation of the alarm. For
this reason physical defenses form the cornerstone of MGC
nature of the collection, its value and its portability
will influence the degree of protection provided but the
shell of the building must in all cases be of substantial
construction: Brick, stone or concrete materials generally
provide the best resistance to forcible attack; openings
in the shell, such as doors, windows and roof lights, must
be reduced to the absolute minimum. Those remaining should
be strengthened to deter and delay entry.
security measures can be designed into new buildings. It
is not intended to restrict the architect's freedom to design
buildings suitable for the surrounding environment or those
which will enhance a museum collection; but the architect
is entitled to an explicit brief on security matters in
the early stages. Security advice taken at this stage may
not only avoid the need for the later addition of security
measures that might spoil a building's appearance but will
also prevent additional security costs when the building
is taken into use.
security requirements into the design at this stage makes
it possible to limit features that might assist an intruder
to gain access.
the shell of the building is usually regarded as the security
perimeter, the number of openings should be limited to
those necessary for access, ventilation and natural light.
Doors, windows and roof lights must all be protected to
reduce the risk of large volume loss during the silent
hours, and have the ability to resist a determined physical
attack for as long as the time needed for response forces
The presence of pipes, ledges and buttresses can make
windows, roof lights and doors accessible to the intruder.
Access/exit can also be made easier through the provision
of emergency escape routes that are not secured internally
during closed hours, or sufficiently protected during
Good design can also reduce the possibility of thieves'
concealing themselves within premises during opening hours
to break out after closing time. By avoiding unused spaces,
dead ends, insecure ducts and panels, places where someone
could hide can be limited.
Provision needs to be made for a secure division between
the areas which are open or closed to the public, with
the intruder detection system being designed accordingly.
Attention paid to the exterior can prevent areas for concealment
such as vegetation, porches, deeply recessed doors and
risk of attack from an attached building that is not defended
to the same degree may not be immediately apparent, but
this may require the party walls to be of stronger construction
than might have been the case. Materials such as breeze
block, foamed concrete, sheet asbestos, aluminum sheeting,
plasterboard, hardboard and bitumen bonded substances,
are now used extensively in the construction of buildings,
but they do not offer the same resistance to attack as
the more traditional materials.
very wide variety of premises is used to house museum collections.
Many were not built for the purpose, and security requirements
played very little part in their design and construction.
The listing of a museum as a building of special architectural
or historical interest also restricts alterations or additions
unless listed building consent can be obtained.
possible, unused doors and windows should be bricked up
to the same constructional strength as the surrounding
wall. By leaving a door or window in place and confining
the infill to the interior of the building it is possible
to retain a museum building's appearance.
Roof lights should also be eliminated if not required,
although it is recognised that in top-lit galleries this
may be impracticable.
Some strengthening can be achieved with the advice of
planning authorities, especially by taking advantage of
maintenance and repair programmes. For example, a roof
constructed of slate or tile to unlined battens can gain
considerable strength if the slates are relaid to a close
boarded timber covering and/or an expanded metal shield
provided at a time when reroofing takes place. Securing
all apertures to existing museums can be a substantial
and expensive task. Sometimes the best approach may be
to define an initial scheme which excludes some parts
of the building from the primary security perimeter. It
may be argued that this is bad practice as areas which
remain unprotected could provide a place of concealment
from which an attack can be mounted. However, by defining
a smaller security perimeter drawn around the high risk
items, the remaining area outside can become an alarmed
buffer zone, able to signal the progress of an intruder
towards the protected area.
variety of different degrees of protection can be provided
to doors and their openings.
exterior door must at least be constructed of solid hardwood
or solid hardcore construction. Further strength to meet
increased risk can be provided by using steel doors of
varying thickness or laminated security doors with reinforced
plastic or steel sheet inserts.
A door frame must always be capable of carrying its door
and be of at least equal strength. Security doors and
frames can be provided in their own purpose-made sets.
Glazed doors to the exterior must always be regarded as
weak and supported by a secondary system, such as steel
roller shutters, expanding steel gates or laminated security
doors fitted inside the primary door. These can be cost-effective
and aesthetically acceptable.
weak point of any door is often the locking system, so care
must be taken over the choice of system, in consultation
with a master locksmith in the case of high risk premises.
Locks come in many different types, sizes and qualities
but careful consideration should identify an appropriate
system. Hinge bolts will help to hold the door in its frame
during an attack, and are essential if hinges are exposed
to the attack side.
public escape routes are essential, it is important that
emergency exits do not make it especially easy for a thief
to make a rapid escape with his spoils. This applies whether
the premises are open to the public or closed. Security
requirements can seem to conflict with safety requirements
for emergency exits. The interpretation of the legal requirements
for escape routes varies from area to area, so it is hard
to offer a simple rule on this matter. Often in the daytime,
during museum opening hours, it has been possible for a
thief to snatch or smash and grab and flee through a nearby
exit. The thief can be thwarted if the door is additionally
secured by an electromagnetic lock which is connected to
the fire alarm system. Alternatively, a solenoid switch
incorporated into the release equipment can delay the release
for a short predetermined period. At night, when the premises
are unstaffed, some form of deadlocking can be used but
it is essential that this is unlocked when the building
is occupied. Staff responsible for opening up the premises
can be reminded of this by linking to the intruder detection
system control box where a "locked" state can be visually
and audibly indicated.
and roof lights will always be a major problem for museum
security. Sometimes even very high windows can be reached
from adjacent roofs or ledges. The following can be used
bricks set in steel or concrete frames for roof lights;
windows with a locked or steel sash with panes not more
than 25 cm x 18 cm, or
narrow windows with effective openings of no more than
it might be possible to treat some windows in this way,
the real defense of windows and roof lights will rest in
secondary protective measures such as:
steel roller shutters;
iron or steel bars;
collapsible gates and grilles;
secondary glazing using for example glass / polycarbonate
/ glass lamination.
shows that the value of an intruder alarm is limited if
entry to and escape from the museum can be effected before
the responding authority arrives on the scene. This is why
the need for strong physical security has been emphasised
above. An intruder alarm system can then be used very effectively
by giving an early signal of an attack as the burglar attempts
to defeat the building's physical defenses. In combination
these features give the appropriate authorities the best
opportunity to respond.
is imperative that the signal notifying an attack is safely
transmitted to a monitoring agency. Museums cannot rely
upon systems which cause a bell or siren to sound on an
external wall in the hope that the thief will be frightened
off or a member of the public will alert the police. An
automatic system using a monitored telephone line (eg BT
RedCARE) to an alarm receiving centre which in turn alerts
the police is essential. An automatic system is now so essential
for a museum that if it is temporarily lost for any reason,
then a human presence must be provided in its place.
intruder systems have a combination of perimeter and trap
protection is generally understood to include devices
activated by intrusion or forcible attack upon the security
perimeter. All openings in the fabric of the building,
such as doors, windows, skylights and ventilation shafts
(including those giving access from adjacent accommodation
outside the museum area) need to be covered. The alarm
company will take environmental factors into account,
but where possible the earliest notification of an attack
on the perimeter should be signalled. If the system only
detects once the perimeter has been breached then valuable
time will have been lost.
protection is used to describe those devices activated
once the intruder is within the perimeter. This form of
detection relies upon the identification of movement and/or
body heat. Modern dual technology detectors rely on the
identification of both before an alarm is signalled. Although
these units are more expensive they are more reliable
and subject to fewer false activations.
combination of these two approaches is usually the most
effective way of providing the required standard of security.
Given the emphasis above on the need for a physically strong
perimeter, then perimeter protection is of primary importance.
many years the Police Service has been struggling to manage
the ever increasing number of false calls generated by automatic
intruder alarm systems. Over 90 of the calls relayed to
the Police do not result from a criminal act but from wrong
setting or un- setting of the system by the user, defective
or inappropriate equipment, or line faults. The Association
of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has therefore devised a
policy for the management of alarm systems to reduce the
waste of valuable police resources. It seems likely that
in due course all UK forces will apply most of the principles
set out in the policy, but the means for doing so is likely
to vary locally. The new policy requires that systems and
alarm companies' control rooms and practices must comply
with the standards set by the National Approval Council
for Security Systems (NACOSS).
all the standards are met, the Police will undertake to
provide what they have defined as a Level 1 or Immediate
If the standards are not met, or there is an unacceptable
false call rate, then the response is likely to be downgraded
to Level 2 (as police resources against demands permit)
or no attendance at all.
It is essential for a museum or art gallery to have an
intruder system and alarm company which meet the NACOSS
and ACPO standards for immediate response.
Properly designed and maintained modern systems, operated
by staff who have been fully trained in their use, should
not be the subject of false calls. Although in the past
MGC security advisers have helped to negotiate with police
forces to restore their response to systems that have
generated too many false calls, under the new policy this
will be difficult to achieve.
must require their alarm companies to identify the cause
of false activations at an early stage and insist very firmly
on receiving the quality of service specified in their contract.
Those responsible are strongly advised to consult with their
alarm company and local police crime prevention officers
to ensure that their systems meet the required standards.
early detection whole collections and buildings can be lost.
It is therefore essential for museums and galleries to have
an automatic fire detection system that will give an early
indication of the presence of fire. A number of systems
are commercially available that will detect heat and/or
smoke. They then transmit an alarm over a telephone line
to the fire brigade, or more often to an alarm company's
receiving centre, as well as causing a local alarm to initiate
an evacuation of the premises.
the risk of fire by "good housekeeping", as promoted by
fire prevention officers in their training schemes, can
bring major benefits. Regular cleaning and removal of waste
products and an inspection system to check that the building
is safe when locking up at night are essential. Many fires
are caused by the misuse of electrical appliances such as
fires and the careless disposal of cigarette ends. These
potential causes can be easily discovered if daily inspections
are incorporated into a good housekeeping regime.
in the reliability of fire detection systems have made them
more acceptable to museum and gallery authorities, especially
as the cost of providing night guards has escalated. There
is still, however, considerable resistance to the use of
automatic suppression systems such as sprinklers. Understandably,
museum staff fear the destructive consequences of an accidental
discharge of water upon the collections in their care.
Layouts and Visitor Flows The layout of exhibitions and
circulation routes through galleries can be arranged to
provide maximum security protection without limiting the
presentation of the collection. Such layouts must also be
able to cope with the flow of visitors in both normal and
abnormal circumstances. Galleries situated away from outside
walls and above ground level are also less easy to penetrate
and thus are likely to be more secure.
planning the layout of exhibitions particular attention
must be given to:
to ensure that invigilators have the best possible view,
and no hidden corners are created where a criminal can
work in seclusion.
Display of material in such a way as to prevent easy removal
by opportunist or determined thieves.
Open displays or room settings where exhibits are directly
accessible to visitors.
Paintings, drawings and similar objects which should be
secured to the walls by mirror plates and security screws,
or similar approved methods.
value pictures may be further protected by alarms.
No objects which could be easily removed should be displayed
close to doors giving ease of escape from the building.
cases are the last line of defense for exhibits in public
galleries. Cases are sometimes required to provide an appropriate
environment for sensitive exhibits but they may be more
necessary for security reasons. While large exhibits such
as paintings and statues may be protected by appropriate
physical or electronic barriers, small and attractive or
fragile objects should be housed in strong, secure display
cases. Varying levels of protection can be provided to reduce
the risk of accidental or intentional damage and theft,
but much will depend on the quality and number of security
staff available in the area. If a case is robust enough
to resist attack this may compensate for limitations in
another element of the security provision.
some establishments are able to employ attendants solely
in the role of gallery invigilators, many museum authorities
use them to cover a full range of security and other duties.
security has to include knowledge and training in emergency
procedures for incidents of theft, damage or fire.
A regular inspection routine must be followed to ensure
safety of the exhibits, the integrity of the building
and to identify fire hazards.
In particular, a search of the building at closing time
must be undertaken to ensure that nobody has hidden themselves
on the premises and that detectors on the alarm system
have not been masked by spraying or sticking some form
of material over the window.
Masking can usually be detected by a walk test.
the absence of night guarding, most buildings, if protected
in accordance with MGC advice, can be left unattended. Even
when a night guard is employed modern practice is to monitor
the building electronically and by closed circuit television
rather than by regular patrol alone.
use of CCTV to counter criminal activity is rapidly increasing.
It is not some form of panacea, but if its application is
carefully thought through it can be a very reliable aid
in combination with other means of meeting the threat of
crime. CCTV can enable invigilators to be more effective,
act as a deterrent, make recordings to assist with post-
incident investigation, assist with entry control arrangements,
provide general information to assist in the management
of the premises and where the premises are guarded out of
hours to assist with site monitoring.
museums offer space for private and commercial functions
either during or after normal public opening times and put
on their own receptions for the opening of special exhibitions.
It is important that these events are carefully supervised.
The conditions laid down for functions where there is Government
Indemnity need to be applied equally to all functions if
damage to the collection is to be avoided.
needs to be a strict policy regarding the issue, possession
and storage of keys. Too often the possession of keys is
based on status or convenience when the deciding factors
ought to be real necessity and accountability.
keys other than the external door keys in the possession
of nominated keyholders must remain in the building in
a secure cabinet or safe and be identified by a coding
system - not with a tag indicating its purpose, e.g. "silver
The issue system should operate in a secure area, ideally
a security control room. Some system of authority for
the drawing of keys needs to be drawn up, based on need
Keys are only to be issued against signature in a record
book kept for the purpose to those authorised for the
On no account should keys be issued to contractors or
other outside agencies.
A proper system will enable a visual inspection at the
end of the day to confirm that all keys have been returned.
police and security/fire alarm companies (as appropriate)
must always have full and current details of keyholders
to the premises. If advice is required on the right lock
for individual needs, purchase, repair, upgrading, constructing,
servicing, maintenance, suiting and design, this is available
at the Lock Advisory Centre at the British Museum.
in technology over recent years have brought about various
means of controlling the access of visitors, staff and others
to buildings and parts of buildings.
the main this paper concerns itself with measures to protect
artefacts. However, the increased use of computers in displays
and for record keeping brings its own threat of crime. Computers
can benefit in the same way as artifacts through good building
security and invigilation, but there are also devices on
the market to secure computers themselves.
the forgoing advice a minimum level of protection can be
achieved with potential to satisfy good or best practice
recommendations. Further advice can be obtained from the
Museums Security Adviser at the address shown at the top.
musées doivent évaluer les menaces qui pèsent sur leur collection,
telles que le feu, l'eau, le vol et le vandalisme. Ils doivent
prendre les mesures appropriées pour y remédier, en s'appuyant
si nécessaire sur les conseils de spécialistes. Ces mesures
comprennent l'identification des zones à risques et dés
collections particulièrement vulnérables ; les besoins en
équipements de surveillance (alarmes, clés) ; la formation
du personnel ; l'inventaire des procédures de contrôle et
les assurances. Lorsque des défaillances sont repérées,
les musées doivent estimer et planifier l'ensemble des mesures
et des besoins en équipements de sécurité permettant de
les combler. Une politique globale devra être envisagée
si le bâtiment est surveillé par le personnel 24 heures
sur 24. Certaines mesures de sécurité pourront alors être
assouplies. Sinon, les mesures de sécurité les plus strictes
devront être prises dès l'ouverture de l'institution. En
Grande-Bretagne, il est possible de recevoir des subventions
du gouvernement pour la protection des objets prêtés figurant
dans une exposition. Les dipositifs de protection de ces
objets doivent alors être délibérément aux normes exigées.
Cependant, cette subvention gouvernementale n'est pas systématiquement
accordée, même si les normes de sécurité du bâtiments sont
conformes. Chaque exposition fait l'objet d'une étude spécifique,
prenant en compte la nature, la valeur, l'intérêt des ouvres
présentées et d'une évaluation des risques face au vol.
Si l'exposition est considérée à haut risque, comme par
exemple une exposition d'objets précieux en or, il peut
s'avérer nécessaire d'imposer des mesures de sécurité complémentaires,
comprenant notamment un gardiennage de 24 heures, avant
que la subvention du gouvernement ne soit accordée.