August 6, 2011

Mark Durney, Founder of the website “Art Theft Central” and moderator of Museum Security Network, on “Collection Inventories”

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Collection Inventories account for works in the event of disaster, transition or conservation treatment and are a proactive effort to protect and secure art collections, Mark Durney, ARCA’s Business and Admissions Director, told the audience at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on July 10.

Accurate and well-audited inventories may increase the likelihood of recovering missing items. In 2008, an inventory of Russian museums discovered 242,000 pieces missing of which only 24,500 were officially registered as stolen.

In 1980, the Dutch Institute for Social Policy Research’s Condition Survey reported a backlog of 70,000 “men years” to inventory 16 national museums.

Many collections in Egypt don’t have inventories, Durney told the audience. And when 56 objects were reported missing from Egypt as published by the Supreme Council, the description of such items as a ‘wooden model vase’ were incomplete as to claim or recognize the object.

In France, 2002 legislation required all museums to create inventories of their collections and calls for them to be reviewed every ten years. The Joconde: catalogue des Collections des Musees de France” is an online inventory from 328 museums.

“More information, better results,” Mark Durney said. “Collection inventories hold institutions accountable for objects in the public trust; motivates more accurate theft reporting; and increases likelihood of recovery.”

“Law enforcement claims a recovery rate of 5-10 percent,” Mark Durney said. “But looking at the numbers over a ten year period, only 1.9% of objects registered stolen were recovered. The confidence interval is 95% and you can quote me on that.”


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