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What I did on my summer vacation

It wasn’t Security Camp, but I recently got to travel to Boston with Protection Services director Pam Godfrey for a museum security conference.  The International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and the Fogg Art Museum hosted participants from the US and Europe for four days of lectures, certification sessions, networking, and technology demos.  Lecturers included Noah Charney from the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, Ellie Bruggeman from the Museum Security Network, founding director of IFCPP Steve Layne, as well as representatives from museum and library facilities on the Harvard campus.  We heard a lot about emergency response planning, workplace violence, and art theft, along with taking side trips to Harvard and the Museum of Fine Arts.

The great thing about this conference, and the National Conference hosted annually by the Smithsonian, is that they are oriented around museums and other cultural institutions, such as libraries and historical properties.  Other conferences, such as the ASIS annual shindig, are huge and cover the whole spectrum of security issues, including securing nuclear facilities.  Not much fissionable material here at the IMA, except Mindy when contractors want to bend safety rules.

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Filed under: Art, Protection Services


Contemporary Art

I was down in exhibition holding the other day, talking with some of the Installation guys about a Tim Hawkinson piece called Moebius Ship. The piece is huge – about 9 feet across – and the conversation brought to mind how Contemporary art poses unique challenges to Security staff that aren’t usually an issue with more traditional art.

Contemporary art is frequently made up of everyday materials and items familiar to normal, everyday people. As such, visitors are not always sure how to react to the art and oftentimes behave contrary to what we would wish. IMA has artwork composed of everything from TVs (Nam June Paik), projectors (Kara Walker), and common furniture (Vito Acconci, Bill Woodrow) to electronic signs (Jenny Holzer) and neon lights (Robert Irwin, soon). We even have flat art on the floor instead of on the wall (Adrian Schiess). Visitors want to sit on the furniture and play with the electronic equipment. They want to TOUCH the stuff, for crying out loud!

Our Contemporary Galleries

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Filed under: Art, Protection Services


House Rules

Rules. Everybody’s got ‘em, from Mom’s house to the big house. The Golden Rule, the infield fly rule, and the Rule of Thirds. Robert’s Rules of Order, rules of engagement, and the Rule of Law. Look both ways before crossing the street, keep your elbows off the dinner table, no playing ball in the house.

The IMA is no different. The museum’s “gallery rules” are rules for proper behavior around the artwork so that the collection is maintained in the best possible condition for generations to come. Most of the rules are common sense, if you stop and think about it. I mean, if Mom won’t let anyone eat pizza on her new sofa, do you think we want anyone near the Monet with a Double Decaf and a sticky bun? Think again, buck-o.

No touching is the Numero Uno rule we have. We humans are such tactile animals that we want to touch everything, from the shiny surface of Donald Judd’s Untitled, 1967 to the rough surface of Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture.

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Filed under: Art, Protection Services


Special Projects

I don’t know if anyone has noticed but gas prices are insanely high, so I’ve been spending more time at home on the computer and less time doubling down at my favorite southern Indiana casinos. Which brings me to one of the special projects I’ve been working on: finding alternatives to the gas-powered vehicles Security uses to patrol the museum campus. Actually, “finding” alternatives has not been that hard, “getting” them on the other hand…

For instance, I found this nifty piece of automotive hardware that our officers would just love to drive. The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric vehicle capable of 0-60 in 4 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph, good even compared to internal combustion cars. Who wouldn’t want to be seen tooling around the IMA campus in one of these drop-top babies? Alas, the $100K price tag would be difficult to slip into the capital budget without any CFO having an arterial incident. And really, where could the Tesla hit top speed… maybe by the Lilly House, but why bother?

More suited to our needs would be the Miles ZX40, a steel uni-body construction, all electric four-door able to hit a blazing 25 mph top speed.

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Filed under: Protection Services



Okay, now that Dancing With The Stars is over I can get down to business. I’m supposed to write about my department, Protection Services, or as I prefer to call it, Security (it’s shorter and sounds scarier). Most folks are familiar with the uniformed officers who prowl the galleries during the day, the ones who smile and point the way to the restrooms and the Van Gogh, and that may be the extent of their knowledge of the department. Deep in the building, however, is the nerve center of the department, the Control Room. Some people know about it, a few have seen it, but everyone is fascinated by it.

The Communication Specialists who work in Control are responsible for monitoring everything and everybody. To accomplish this grand task, Control is equipped with video systems, audio systems, HVAC systems, fire systems, and alarm systems. It has a biometric security system and a multi-channel radio station. It even has a freakin’ drive-up window! I can’t give away all the secret stuff, like the GPS tracking chips we embed in every new staff member, but here’s a little history of the Control Room.

Here I am in the old Control Room sometime back in the 90’s. I spent a lot of years in this room and did some of my best work in there (more about that later).

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Filed under: Musings, Protection Services


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