Showing posts with label ARCA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ARCA. Show all posts

August 15, 2018

Repatriation: The Case of the Stolen TEFAF Buddha

Screen Shot of ID Matching Buddha stolen 57 years ago.
Image Credit:  ARCA with permission from ASI Archives in India
In a tale that began as a follow up to a funding initiative, I was scheduled to be in the Netherlands this past March to meet with folks at Maastricht University who ARCA was collaborating with on an EU funded Horizon 2020 grant proposal designed to address the critical issues involved the illicit trafficking of antiquities (which, by the way, we were later not awarded).  "The European Fine Arts Fair," or more simply by its art market acronym, TEFAF.  Part of the impetus for meeting in the Netherlands was that I was already in Maastricht, as each year, since 1988, the city has played host to an annual art, antiques, and design fair at the MECC which is organized by The European Fine Art Foundation called

I was at TEFAF to keep an eye open for looted antiquities which might be on sale with fabricated provenances — artworks from the ancient past which have no legitimate pedigree as they have been looted directly from the ground.  Illicit antiquities like these have a propensity for eventually bubbling up into auction house and trade fair sales as their illicit excavation from archaeologically rich sites means that they will not appear in any for-fee stolen art database searches as there is no way to report a previously unknown object as missing.  Once a looted object gains a plausible fabricated provenance, it only takes a few purchases and a publication in one or two glossy exhibition catalogs, to give a looted object a superficial patina of legitimacy.

I was not expecting to find an object stolen from a museum as these types of thefts are routinely registered with police, as well as with art market theft databases.  Searching services, conducted by Art Loss Register, are also incorporated into the vetting of objects for sale at TEFAF in both their New York and Maastricht sales events and are designed to reduce or resolve art-related ownership disputes.

But on Thursday, 15 March 2018 around lunchtime, I pressed the send button on my smartphone application and passed a high resolution photo of a suspicious object I had seen at the stand of one of the international art dealers.  The photo sent was of a Post-Gupta, seated Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra pose, a delicate bronze with his right hand as a pendant over the right knee and with the palm of his left hand facing upward.  The person I sent the photo to was Vijay Kumar, the cofounder of India Pride Project.  

IPP has been responsible for identifying countless Indian treasures stolen and smuggled overseas, some of which have been found in prestigious museums around the globe.  Less than 2 hours later, and with careful comparison with  images obtained through a retired ASI employee, Dr. Sachindra S Biswas, Kumar and I were fairly confident we had a match.  

Image Credit:  Left - ARCA Photo from TEFAF Maastricht 2018
Right - ISA Archive photo
The following morning, Friday, 16 March 2018 and after multiple cross checks, between the photos of the object I took and those of the ASI, I contacted Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antiques Crime Unit of the Netherlands National Police Force, INTERPOL, UNESCO and the Indian authorities and presented everyone with the supporting evidence of our identification.   In our opinion, as well as the opinion of two external experts, we felt confident, to the best of our abilities, that the object for sale at TEFAF in March 2018 was an exact match to one of 14 objects stolen from the Nalanda Archaeological Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Nalanda, Bihar, India on August 22, 1961.

Despite its theft, the stolen Buddha was pictured in Ulrich Von Schroeder's book "Into-Tibetan Bronzes," a book published in Hong Kong in 1981.  By that time the object had already been satisfactorily laundered into the licit market and was  listed as part of a private collection in London.  

Pages from Ulrich Von Schroeder's book "Into-Tibetan Bronzes,"
illustrating the stolen Buddha
Based on the preponderance of evidence we presented, the Dutch police force acted immediately and sent officers to pay a visit to the dealer's representative on site at TEFAF for the last day of the Dutch fair.  The manager of the stand reported to the Dutch police that the firm was holding the object for a consignor who resided outside of the Netherlands.  

Working cooperatively with law enforcement, the dealer agreed to be in touch with the Buddha's current owner as well as New Scotland Yard, London's Metropolitan Police upon their return to London where an investigation could be taken up by the UK authorities.  ARCA and India Pride Project, in turn, passed all the evidence we had obtained on to Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of New Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit. 

Once in London, Constable Hayes began her own necessary due diligence in order to ensure that our impressions were correct.  After reviewing the documentation we had provided to the London police, Hayes contacted France Desmarais of the International Council of Museums (ICOM).  

Desmarais arranged for a neutral external expert opinion on the Buddha currently held in the UK by the antiquities dealer for the consignor.  This evaluation was conducted for evidence of authenticity as well as in comparison to the evidence provided by ARCA and India Pride Project related to the theft in Nalanda, Bihar 57 years ago. 

ICOM's expert found the bronze in question to be an authentic, and a match to one of the 14 objects stolen in 1961.

To understand how experts authenticate ancient art of this type it is important to understand that bronzes produced in the later medieval period (circa 12th century) in eastern India were made using the “lost wax” method.  This is a process where a wax model is made which can be used only once, as the wax melts away when the molten bronze is poured into the mould. For this reason, each bronze Buddha made using the lost wax method is unique, and while other Buddhas may have a similar appearances or poses, no two will be exactly alike as each object has to be made from its own individual wax mold. 

Completing this confirmation check took some time, as the number of post-Gupta era experts is limited and authentication is not something experts working in the museum community perform without careful consideration and thoughtful examination.  I'd like to personally thank both the anonymized expert and Ms. Desmarais for their time and expert assistance regarding the origins of this bronze. 

With ICOM's confirmation in hand, the Met's Art and Antiquities Squad worked to convince the current owner of the Buddha, who, along with the dealer had been cooperative throughout the investigation, to voluntarily relinquish the object back to its home country.   Today, it was handed over to Indian High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha during a ceremony this morning at the Gandhi Hall, India House, Aldwych in London, timed to coincide with India’s Independence Day.

Sanjeev Sanyal,  Principal Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India at the Buddha repatriation Ceremony in London.
Imag credit:  IPP
Speaking with Vijay this morning hee stated "this is a great demonstration of inter governmental and activist groups and also the need for proper documentation. We hope this is just the beginning in finding closure to this case as we are still after the rest of the stolen artifacts. Hope the museums in America are looking at this with interest. "

While I, like Vijay am overjoyed that this stolen Buddha is finally going home, another similar to it, identified in February and stolen during the same theft, still sits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California.  The question remains, if the US-based museum will be as forthcoming as this collector and UK dealer.  Both of whom did the right thing by cooperating during the investigation and eventually returning the stolen object back to India voluntarily.  

By:  Lynda Albertson

June 27, 2015

ARCA 2015 Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference Schedule


 Saturday, June 27, 2015

8:15 am -   9:15 am: Welcome and Registration

9:15 am -   9:30 am: Conference Welcome 
Lynda Albertson, Chief Executive Officer
Association for Research into Crimes Against Art

9:30 am - 10:30 am: The Fine Art of Insuring Fine Art                                      Panel Chair: Maria Edwards, M.A.,
Adjunct Professor 
Stony Brook University, ARCA 2015
"Dealer Conversion of Consigned Art. When Drugs and Greed Make the Art Disappear: Experts Will Deal with Legal, Insurance, and Valuation Complexities"
                                                                                                                                                     Thomas R. Kline, J.D.
Of Counsel Andrews Kurth, LLP and Professorial Lecturer                            George Washington University

Dorit Straus
Fine Art Insurance Expert and ARCA Lecturer
Art Recover Group PLC

Victor Wiener, PhD.,
Victor Wiener Associates, LLC, Adjunct Assistant Professor                                New York University


"The Art of Risk Management: The Crucial Role of the Global Art Insurance Industry in Enabling Risk and Security"
                                                                                                                                                            John Kerr, PhD.,
University of Roehampton 


10:30 am -11:00 am: Networking Coffee Break

11:00 am -1:00 pm: National and International Art Crime Policing
            Panel Chair: Christos Tsirogiannis, PhD., ARCA Professor                                                     
Research Assistant in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research              
Trafficking Culture Project
University of Glasgow 

"From Prosecution Comes Solution: Using the Crook's Mind to Combat Art Crime"

Jordan Arnold, Esq., Managing Director
K2 Intelligence

"EU = 28 Countries + 28 Legislations = 1 Million Problems"

Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antique Crime Unit of the Netherlands
Dutch National Police 

"One Culture, Two Systems: Changing Attitudes to Cultural Heritage Protection and Illicit Smuggling in Hong Kong and China" 

Toby Bull, MSc., 
Founder, TrackArt - Art Risk Consultancy

Steven Gallagher, Barrister, Faculty of Law 
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

"The Italian Carabinieri and the Evolution of its Art Crime Databases"
                                                                                                                                        
Capitano Luigi Spadari
Comandante Sezione Elaborazione Dati 
Carabinieri del Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale

"Activities and Tools of INTERPOL’s Works of Art Unit in the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property"

Françoise Bortolotti, Criminal Intelligence Officer
INTERPOL General Secretariat (Lyon, France)                                                        Sub-Directorate -Drugs and Organized Crime- Works of Art Unit
                                
"Europol’s Involvement in the Fight Against Cultural Goods Crime"

Michael Will, Manager
EUROPOL, Organised Crime Networks Group - Focal Point Furtum


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Lunch in the Cloister
 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Heritage Crimes in Countries in Conflict:  Perspectives From the Field     
Panel Chair: Samer Abdel Ghafour, ARCA 2015
Founder of "Archaeology in Syria" Social Media Network

"Syrian Cultural Heritage During the Crisis"

Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim
Director-General of the Directorate General of Antiquities & Museums, Syria        

"A View on Heritage Protection from Southern Iraq"

Dott. Franco D'Agostino, Professor of Assyriology
Director Iraqi-Italian Mission at Abu Tbeirah
Sapienza Università di Roma

Dott.ssa Licia Romano, 
Co-Director Iraqi-Italian Mission at Abu Tbeirah
Sapienza Università di Roma

"Libya and Heritage Protection in the Absence of Security"

Hafed Walda, PhD., Research Fellow, King's College London
Pending Deputy Ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO

 3:00 pm -  3:30 pm: Refreshment Break

3:30 pm -  5:00 pm: Heritage Crimes in Countries in Conflict: Analysis, Understanding and Protection, Before During and After the Wars Have Ended
Panel Chair: His Highness Prince Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong 
The Return of the Monkey God to Phnom Penh:  The Koh Ker Repatriation 

"A ‘Vital Source of Funding': Conflict Antiquities in the Syrian Civil War" 

Sam Hardy, DPhil Law Studies 
American University of Rome

"So How Did We Get Here? Trying to Understand the Reasons Behind the Unprecedented Destruction of Archaeological Heritage"

Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly, MA., Archaeology, MA., Journalism
Biladi: Heritage for Peace Building (Lebanese N,G.O)

"Protecting China’s Archaeological Artefacts Against Looting and Illicit Art Trafficking"

Stefan Gruber, PhD., Associate Professor                                                               Kyoto University

5:00 pm - 5:30 pm: Conclusions and Final Questions

Sunday, June 28, 2015 

 9:30 am - 10:30 am: Contemporary Issues in the Global Art Market 
Panel Chair: Noah Charney, PhD., ARCA Founding Trustee
Lecturer and Author

"Connoisseurship in a Globalized Art Market: Reconciling Approaches to Authenticity "

Clare Diamond, PhD Candidate
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

"Art CSI: When Science Solves the Puzzle of Forgery. The Case Study "Vase of Flowers", Painting Attributed to Filippo De Pisis (1896-1956)"

Lisa Volpe, PhD., Research Fellow                                                                 Conservator Scientist, TekneHub                                                                     University of Ferrara, Italy

Marilena Leis, PhD., 
Professor, Department of Life Science and Biotechnologies                         University of Ferrara, Italy


10:30 am - 11:00 am: Networking Coffee Break


11:00 am - 11:30 am: Researching the Trafficking of Culture  
Panel Chair: Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

"Perspectives on Crime and Crime Control Policy from the Trafficking Culture Project"

Simon Mackenzie, PhD.,
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research              
Trafficking Culture Project, University of Glasgow

Donna Yates, PhD.,
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research              
Trafficking Culture Project, University of Glasgow

Neil Brodie, PhD.,
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research              
Trafficking Culture Project, University of Glasgow

11:30 am - 1:00 pm: Issues in Art Law  
Panel Chair: Elise Perry, ARCA 2015

"Art Fraud in Germany or How Criminals Become Celebrities"
Saskia Hufnagel, PhD., Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law
Queen Mary University of London

"Opining on the Authentic"

Philippa Malas, Barrister, England and Wales
Law Lecturer, University of Glasgow                                                                   Author of the MSc Art Law and Business at Christie's Education, London

"Mediation as an Alternative to the Court for Resolution of Art and Cultural Heritage Disputes"

Dott. Pierfrancesco C. Fasano, Attorney-at-Law
FASANO - Avvocati

Dott.ssa Ivett Paulovics, Attorney-at-Law
FASANO - Avvocati 


"Sentencing the Art Thief: Deterrence, Responsibility, Protection, Reparation and Restoration - Uneasy Bedfellows in a Courtroom?"
Arthur Tompkins, Judge
New Zealand Ministry of Justice 


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: Lunch in the Cloister

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Whitening Illicit Art Via the Licit Marketplace
Panel Chair: Angelina Giovani, ARCA 2014 and Holocaust Art Restitution Project  

"Discovering and Visualising the Criminological Value of The Medici Conspiracy"

Christos Tsirogiannis, PhD.,
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research              
Trafficking Culture Project, University of Glasgow


"The Opaque Market of Egyptian Papyri in a Globalised Context: Sellers, Buyers, Prices and the Role of Academics"

Roberta Mazza, PhD.,
Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History                                                        University of Manchester


"Uncovering the Illicit Traffic of Russian Ancient Icons"
Laure Coupillaud Szustakowski, PhD Candidate
Chief Operating Officer at CAPABILIS


3:00 pm - 3:15 pm: Refreshment Break
3:15 pm - 4:45 pm: Provenance in Museums and Private Ownership 
Panel Chair: Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Trustee and Lecturer

"Siena, Dunedin, Rome: the Tale of Five Macchiaioli School Paintings"
Penelope Jackson, MPhil.,
Trustee of the New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust


"Give and Take: Museum Professionals’ Attitudes and Ethics Toward the Acquisition and Repatriation of West African Cultural Objects"
Meg Lambert, PhD Candidate
University of Glasgow


"Is Restitution to Rightful Owners the Only Solution?"
Angelina Giovani, MA., presenting on behalf of Marc Masurovsky 
Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP)                                              

"A Treaty, a Prophet and a Flag: The Repatriation of Indigenous Cultural Property and New Zealand's Waitangi Tribunal" 
Mia Gaudin, LLB., (Hons)
Crown Law Office, New Zealand


4:45 pm - 5:45pm: Risk Assessments in Museum Security
Panel Chair: Aaron Haines, ARCA 2015 

"Art Crime in Relation to Museum Security in the United States: A Survey of Recent Security Measures and Criminal Trends Within Accredited Art Museums"
Christine A. Weirich, PhD Candidate
School of Social and Political Science University of Glasgow


"A Collection of Thefts: What One Museum's Responses to Five Incidents Can Teach Us About Ideal Resolutions"
Katherine Luer, ARCA alumna and MLS Candidate
Independent Researcher


5:45 pm – 6:00 pm: Key Note Closing – A Look to the Future

June 2, 2015

Countdown to ARCA's 7th Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Umbria

Here's a link to ARCA's website for information on the 2015 Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in Italy to be held in Amelia, Umbria, the last weekend of June. The list of speakers includes:

“A View on Heritage Protection from Southern Iraq”
Franco D’Agostino, PhD. Professor of Assyriology
Director Iraqi-Italian Mission at Abu Tbeirah
Sapienza Università di Roma
Licia Romano, PhD
Co-Director Iraqi-Italian Mission at Abu Tbeirah
Sapienza Università di Roma
“So How Did We Get Here? Trying to Understand the Reasons Behind the Unprecedented Destruction of Archaeological Heritage”
Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly, MA Archaeology, MA Journalism
Biladi: Heritage for Peace Building (Lebanese N,G.O)
“The INTERPOL Expert Group’s Role in Safeguarding the World’s Cultural Heritage from Crime and the Dangers of Conflict”
Françoise Bortolotti, Criminal Intelligence Officer
INTERPOL General Secretariat (Lyon, France), Sub-Directorate -Drugs and Organized Crime- Works of Art Unit
“Future without a past: the extinction of the cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq”
Paolo Brusasco, PhD., Professor of Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near East
Scuola di Scienze Umanistiche
Università degli Studi di Genova
“One Culture, Two Systems : Changing Attitudes to Cultural Heritage Protection and Illicit Smuggling in Hong Kong and China”
Toby Bull, MSc.,
Founder, TrackArt – Art Risk Consultancy
Steven Gallagher, Barrister
Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
“The Italian Carabinieri and the Evolution of its Art Crime Databases”
Salvatore Rapicavoli, Captain
Data Processing Unit Deputy Commander
Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage
“Connoisseurship in a Globalized Art Market: Reconciling the Conflict Between Artistic and Economic Values”
Clare Diamond, PhD., candidate
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
“Mediation, as an Alternative to the Court for Resolution of Art and Cultural Heritage Disputes”
Pierfrancesco C. Fasano, Attorney-at-Law
FASANO – Avvocati
Ivett Paulovics, Attorney-at-Law
FASANO – Avvocati
“EU = 28 Countries + 28 Legislations = 1 Million Problems”
Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antique Crime Unit of the Netherlands
Dutch National Police
“Protecting China’s Archaeological Artefacts Against Looting and Illicit Art Trafficking”
Stefan Gruber, PhD.,
Associate Professor, Kyoto University
“Art Fraud in Germany or How Criminals Become Celebrities”
Saskia Hufnagel, PhD., Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law

Queen Mary University of London
“Siena, Dunedin, Rome: the Tale of Five Macchiaioli School Paintings”
Penelope Jackson, M.Phil
Trustee of the NZ Art Crime Research Trust
“Dealer Conversion of Consigned Art: When Drugs and Greed Make the Art Disappear”
Dorit Straus
Fine art Insurance Expert and ARCA Lecturer
Thomas R. Kline, J.D.
Of Counsel Andrews Kurth, LLP and Professorial Lecturer, George Washington University
Victor Wiener, Ph.D.,
Victor Wiener Associates, LLC, Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York University
“Give and Take: Museum Professionals’ Attitudes and Ethics Toward the Acquisition and Repatriation of West African Cultural Objects”
Meg Lambert, PhD Candidate
University of Glasgow
“A Collection of Thefts: What One Museum’s Responses to Five Incidents Can Teach Us About Ideal Resolution”
Katherine Luer, ARCA alumna and future MLS graduate
Independent Researcher
“Opining on the Authentic”
Philippa Malas, Barrister, England and Wales
Law Lecturer, University of Glasgow and author of the MSc Art, Law and Business at Christie’s Education, London
“The Opaque Market of Egyptian Papyri in a Globalised Context: Sellers, Buyers, Prices and the Role of Academics”
Roberta Mazza, Dr
Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, University of Manchester
“Uncovering the Illicit Traffic of Russian Ancient Icons”
Laure Coupillaud Szustakowski, PhD Candidate
Chief Operating Officer at CAPABILIS
“Perspectives on Crime and Crime Control Policy from the Trafficking Culture Project”
Neil Brodie, PhD
Simon Mackenzie, PhD
Donna Yates, PhD
Trafficking Culture, SCCJR, University of Glasgow
“Sentencing the Art Thief: Deterrence, Responsibility, Protection, Reparation and Restoration – Uneasy Bedfellows in a Courtroom?”
Arthur Tompkins, Judge
New Zealand Ministry of Justice
“Discovering and Visualising the Criminological Value of The Medici Conspiracy”
Christos Tsirogiannis, PhD.,

Research Assistant, Trafficking Culture, SCCJR, University of Glasgow
“Art CSI: When Science Solves the Puzzle of Forgery. The Case Study “Vase of Flowers”, Painting Attributed to Filippo De Pisis (1896-1956)”
Lisa, Volpe, PhD.,
Research Fellow, Conservator Scientist, TekneHub – University of Ferrara, Italy
Marilena Leis, PhD.,
Research Fellow, Conservator Scientist, TekneHub – University of Ferrara, Italy
“Libya and Heritage Protection in the Absence of Security”
Hafed Walda, PhD.,
Research Fellow. King’s College London
Pending Deputy Ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO
“Art Crime in Relation to Museum Security in the United States: A Survey of Recent Security Measures and Criminal Trends Within Accredited Art Museums”
Christine A. Weirich, PhD Candidate
School of Social and Political Science University of Glasgow
“Europol’s Involvement in the Fight Against Cultural Goods Crime”
Michael Will, Manager
EUROPOL, Organised Crime Networks Group – Focal Point Furtum

February 22, 2015

Dick Ellis returns to Amelia this summer to teach "Art Policing, Protection and Investigating" at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad, will be returning to Amelia to teach “Art Policing, Protection and Investigation” at ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Mr. Ellis ran the Art & Antiquities Squad for New Scotland Yard from 1989 until his retirement from the police in 1999. After working for Christie’s Fine Art Security Services and Trace recovery services, in 2005 he joined with security and conservation specialists to form the Art Management Group. He is also director of Art Resolve and Art Retrieval International Ltd.

As a specialist art crime investigator both in the police and in the private sector, Mr. Ellis has been involved in many notable recoveries such as ‘The Scream’ stolen from the National Gallery of Norway in 1994; Audobon’s ‘Birds of America’ stolen from the State Library in St. Petersburg; antiquities looted from China and Egypt; and the recovery of numerous items of art and antiquities stolen from private residences throughout the United Kingdom and abroad including in 2005 the silver stolen Stanton Harcourt and in 2006 paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard and Duffy stolen in London.

What might students learn on a given day?

Students would learn from case studies how stolen art is recovered today both by law enforcement and in the private sector. They would learn how organised crime utilizes stolen art to fund other areas of crime through a study of the Beit collection robberies in Ireland, and would how covert sting operations can recover such stolen masterpieces as Munch's "The Scream". They would also learn how private sector interventions recovered paintings by Picasso and Delacroix from international criminal organisations and how to detect fakes and forgeries.

Books to read?

The Irish Game by Mathew Hart, which gives a clear insight in to why iconic works of art are stolen by organised crime groups and how criminals convert the art in to a tangible benefit.

Here's a link to Mr. Ellis' profile and interview in 2011 and a link to more information about the Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

September 30, 2014

International Committee on Museum Security, Copenhagen, Denmark: Conference celebrates the ruby anniversary in a royal city

SMK (national gallery of Denmark)
by Penelope Abram, alumna of ARCA 2013

The Danish capitol of Copenhagen welcomed a lively crowd for the 40th Annual International Committee on Museum Security. Greeted with smiling faces and sunny weather, was the landmark National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst). Security professionals from many countries and established institutions were represented as presenters and participants. The theme for this milestone year was “Implementing and maintaining security and safety at cultural institutions with fewer or limited financial resources today and in the future”. My ARCA thesis, written for the 2013 year, fit right into the theme of making security cost effective and highly capable. I presented on my thesis of museum security, which was a theoretical plan for the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. I designed an organizational method for security while combining inventory and time management based on my previous retail experience and on the Everson’s methods currently in place.

The first speaker enlightened us with a “Year in Review”. He remarked on just a glimpse of the thefts, damages, and general misfortunes that struck cultural institutions in the past year. He commented and observed some trends and using graphs and statistics, he revealed how these change drastically, or minimally, within a year’s time. This led to a great conversation on how something as seemingly banal as flood damage could pose a tremendous risk to cultural heritage.

A Business Director of a Museum in the Netherlands gave a presentation that was as suspenseful as an action movie. In early 2014, a large bushfire was ablaze in the countryside, which threatened the museum if it continued to spread. While rapidly approaching, the plan of action was to protect everything in the museum, which led to a system that was currently in place to secure as many art pieces as possible in the vault before the fire reaches their doorstep. Not to keep anyone in suspense, everything was kept perfectly safe and the fire never burned through the museum’s immediate campus.

View from the lawn of the Louisiana museum
During the course of the conference, a panel discussed some of the ingenious ways to save an institution’s security team time, money and personnel. LJ Hartman of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City discussed the implications of being open one more day and how to calculate security personnel in a much more organized and balanced way. Vernon Rapley of the Victoria and Albert Museum discussed how his Museum uses gallery staff on a temporary or on-call basis. Although this is considered controversial in the UK, his use of “zero hour workers” to enhance the security team for certain events, exhibits and occasions, seems to be an inventive way to keep up with the ebb and flow of visitors.

A large part of the conference was exploring the security dilemmas of local Copenhagen museums. I was assigned the National Museum of Denmark and as a student of ARCA I was reminded instantly of our security audit we conducted. Although in Italy, we were students with basic knowledge, in Denmark, I was surrounded by professionals from all different fields examining and asking relevant questions, all using their well-honed skills and points-of-view. The expertise of our host Security Director, Rune Hernoe was impressive and admirable, and the group collaboration taught me further the hands-on world of museum security.

New security methods were on demonstration a couple times that week and to see ways to prevent thefts, damage and catastrophes, was sometimes a stimulating display. Watching a flame go from ablaze to absent with just a unique combination of gases was quite spectacular, while seeing technologically advanced cameras was informative.

A highlight of the conference was to get an insider’s tour of some of the best art museums and castles Denmark has to offer. Seeing the crown jewels in the Rosenborg Castle, touring a genuinely unmodified Victorian apartment owned by the National Museum, walking through the modern and contemporary art exhibits of the SMK and ARKEN, and taking in the view of the ocean while on the lawn of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art were my personal favorites.

From the first day to the last, the willingness to share ideas and strengths was motivating as a young professional like myself to witness. Just listening to some of the conversations over coffee breaks it is apparent that these security professionals value working together. Hearing how investigating problems and solving solutions while trading stories over dinner reminds me how much museum security is a team effort rather than a solo trial. Last summer, while in Dick Drent’s Museum Security course during the ARCA program, I changed my perception of the museum world, and attending this conference only added and enhanced that outlook. Having him there to watch me present, the thesis that he inspired, was another bonus of this event.