Showing posts with label museum security. Show all posts
Showing posts with label museum security. Show all posts

February 12, 2020

Convictions in the Nizam Museum Theft.

Image Credit: Hyderabad Police
Two burglars, Mohammed Mubeen (24) and Mohammed Ghouse Pasha (23), responsible for the jewelry theft from the Nizam Museum housed in the Purani Haveli palace have been found guilty and convicted by a local court in Hyderabad, India on Tuesday. 

The palace was once the official residence of the Nizam, the last of whom ruled over the region from 1911 to 1948, when Hyderabad State was annexed by India. 

The pair entered the museum sometime on the evening of Sunday, September 2, 2018 by dislodging a ventilation grill which allowed them to enter an exhibition gallery where they proceeded to break into a non alarmed exhibition case and make off with a three-tier diamond-studded gold tiffin box with trays, as well as a golden tea cup and saucer embedded with ruby and emeralds, a spoon and a tray which once belonged to the 7th Nizam. Tiffins (or dhabbas) are traditionally round metal lunch containers with three or four stacking compartments used for serving traditional homemade thali lunches which feature bread, pickles, spicy curries, and sometimes desserts.

With the help of the public, Hyderabad City Police's Commissioner’s Task Force (South) team quickly recovered the stolen museum objects a short while later and identified the pair, who were then formally charged. 
Yesterday, City Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar confirmed that the court had issued its verdict, sentencing the duo to two years of imprisonment.

February 2, 2020

Dick Drent returns to Amelia to teach "risk management and crime prevention in museum security” at ARCA's 2020 Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 28 through August 12, 2020 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s lecturers will be interviewed. This week I speak Dick Drent, the Van Gogh Museum's former security director and on of the worlds leading experts on museum security.

Dick Drent
Though Dick and I both located in Amsterdam, I have to this interview via Skype as Dick is constantly flying around the world to assist museums from the US to the Far East and in between. When I talk with him to discuss his return to Amelia in 2020, Dick is heading for Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the first two emirates to talk about bringing proactive security to the UAE. Soon to follow by the other emirates.

Can you tell us something about your background and work?

My background is based on law enforcement with the Dutch police, where I worked for 25 years, mainly involving international investigations hinging on organised crime. In that capacity I worked for 15 years in the Undercover and Sensitive Operations Unit on counter-terrorism projects and on setting up, running and managing (inter)national infiltration projects. I also worked as the Liaison Officer for the Dutch Police to the UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, a tribunal set up in 1992 for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law set up following the war in what is the former Yugoslavia.

In 2005 I was approached by the Van Gogh Museum to serve as their Director of Security, responsible for dealing with their threat and risk issues as it relates to the museum’s complex physical security as well as it's the museum’s approach to organizational, construction and electronic risk management. Leading up to my hire, these were not sufficient for a museum of this calibre and had resulted in the 2002 burglary of the museum in which two Van Gogh paintings were stolen. So, I was mandated to change and overhaul the museum’s overall security which I did, developing and implementing a new proactive security strategy which effectively assessed risk and minimized the potential of future breaches. Next to that I was pinpointed as chief investigator with the goal of getting the museum's two stolen Van Gogh paintings back. In 2016 after many years of tracing and tracking tips, gathering information, connecting with informants and conducting investigations all over Europe we were ultimately successful. Fourteen years after the robbery, and in close cooperation with Italy’s Guardia Di Finanza of Naples, we were able to recover the paintings at a house connected to one of the bosses of the Camorra organized crime clans in Naples. There, the paintings were seized by law enforcement authorities and when authenticated, were returned to the Van Gogh Museum where they have been restored and are now once again a part of the museum’s collection.

Recovery of the Van Gogh's
In 2014 I left the Van Gogh Museum to further develop my own business enterprise where I continue to be successful in an advisory and consultancy capacity, a segment of which is specialized on providing security and risk training as it relates to protecting cultural heritage. I have also expanded my company Omnirisk through a merger with the International Preventive Security Unit (IPSU) where knowledge and expertise is combined. We will operate under the name International Security Expert Group. (ISEG). ISEG works with experts from law enforcement and special forces from the military and will cover the full range of training and courses in security and safety for any situation in the world. Next to this I’m still busy with assisting museums and cultural projects all over the world to improve their security. At the moment I’m in touch with Mark Collins, a law enforcement officer from Canada and an ARCA alumnus, to set up training programs on proactive security in Canada.

What do you feel is the most relevant part of your course?


Dick Drent on a field trip during the
2019 program
As it relates to my course with ARCA, aside from creating security awareness in the broadest sense of the word, especially for those participants who have no security experience in their backgrounds, the most relevant part of my course involves a change of mindset. This is done by literally letting them climb into the skin of the criminal or terrorist, where they are asked to assume an adversarial role or point of view in order to understand how easy it is to commit an art-related crime. By considering, how they themselves would set about attacking a museum or an archaeological site or infiltrating a private institution with the intent and goal of stealing or destroying something, they are better able to see and understand the site's security vulnerabilities, by simulating a real-world attack to evaluate the effectiveness of a site’s security defenses and policies.

What do you hope participants will get out of your course? 

I want them to understand that the protection of cultural heritage doesn’t begin with chasing stolen, falsified, counterfeited, looted, plundered or destroyed art or heritage. I want them to learn that it starts with thinking about threats and actors, and risk in advance of an incident and exploring how we can prevent incidents before they happen. By changing from a reactive method of security as we know it, ergo, reacting to incidents after they occur, where, per definition, you are already too late to have prevented it), to a proactive strategy is what is needed for comprehensive security strategies. Pro-activity involves identifying the hazardous conditions that can give rise to all manner of risk, which we address in a variety of methods, including predictive profiling, red teaming, utilizing security intelligence and other proactive approaches which lead to the actual protection of cultural heritage.

A second thing I know for sure the participants come away with from my course is that when finished they will have a strong understanding of how security should, or more correctly, has to be an intrinsic part of any organisation. It’s not unusual for those who study under me, to say afterwards that they will never be able to walk into museum again without looking for the security issues at hand and in their head making a survey how easy it would be too…… For them, the days of solely enjoying a museum or art will be over. Forever.

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants? 

Next to reading everything that is mentioned on the advanced reading lists we provide to participants, I would highly recommend reading the book: Managing the Unexpected (2007) by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. This book discusses the ideas behind the High Reliability Organization (HRO) and it's principles. In my opinion every organization that is involved in the protection of cultural heritage, should be managed as an HRO. Read it and you will find out why.

Is there anything you can recommend about the program or about it being in Amelia or Umbria? 

Coffee break during the conference
An added value to your investment in following this program in Amelia is the opportunity to develop one’s network with other participants and with all the professors and lectures who come to Umbria because of ARCA and the ARCA conference. This sometimes isn’t obvious in the beginning, but I am still in contact with a lot of the participants and presenters from the previous year’s courses and conferences and have also been able to connect them to other people in my network long after the summer is over. So, for a future career, even it is not clear yet what or how that career will look, this program offers opportunities too good not to make use of! Tip: Print business cards to give to the people you contact and ask for theirs. Make them notice you, by your questions and drive to learn

Regarding Amelia, Umbria and of course Italy as a whole, there are not enough words even to begin to explain why someone should travel around in this big playground where every stone represents a part of history. Not to mention the beautiful food, wines and various dishes they serve in all the different regions and the friendship you can experience if you are really interested in the people and the country. It’s worth soaking up and living it!

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June?

Throughout the years that the Amelia Conference has taken place, I have watched it become more and more focused and specialized. The number of attendees has also grown from 40-50 at its start to well over 150 attendees, even without using publishing or marketing tools. That is what a conference should be about, interesting topics, good speakers, interesting discussions and the opportunity to network and get to know people. Due to my work, I am not always able to attend every year and feel this as a missed opportunity to grow and to extend my knowledge and network. For the participants it is very important to be there and to connect with the people that could be interesting for their line of work or career or just because it is good to meet interesting people. This applies also the other way around. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the participants during this coming 2020 program!

 -----------

For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org 

Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

January 19, 2020

Flashback Sunday: ARCA's Postgraduate Program: From the eyes of one of our alumni - Part I


I’m not sure whether it makes more sense to say that we’re only halfway through with the ARCA postgraduate program or that we’re already halfway through with the program. On the one hand, we have had the good fortune of hearing from six expert professors and have covered all sorts of ground—academic and professional terrain alike—in the study of art crime: from heritage law to art insurance, from art policing to forgery, and from museum security to war crimes. We’ve practically memorized most of the UNESCO conventions at this point, we’re capable of sketching out the infamous Medici trafficking organigram at the blow of a whistle, and we’re all pretty used to having revenge-fantasy dreams about prosecuting certain museums with less-than acceptable collection ethics and repatriating all of their loot.

On the other hand, however, it feels like we’ve only just arrived in Amelia and that there’s still a whole lot more for us to learn in the coming weeks about cultural heritage protection. We’ve yet to encounter the international art market or art criminology head-on, and we’re not quite sure whether we believe the Spanish or the British are more entitled to Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington. Moreover, we still don’t know how we would actually steal the Ghent Altarpiece or Munch’s The Scream and this makes me wonder: can anyone really fashion him or herself an art crime expert without knowing how to pull off a major museum heist? It’s probably a good thing that we’re only halfway done with the ARCA program, but I’ll share with you what we’ve covered in the courses so far since we are, after all, already halfway finished with the program.  


Following Duncan Chappell’s course our studies shifted from the subject of art law to its not-too-distant relative, art insurance. Dorit Straus, art insurance veteran and board member at AXA Art, served as the instructor for this course. Straus has had a lengthy and exciting career with all sorts of cinematic turns and climaxes. Its major plot twist: Straus began her career studying Near Eastern Archaeology and only later in life migrated into the world of art insurance. For those of us trained in the humanities—which is to say, with little to no background in the fine arts market—Straus guaranteed a convenient point of entry into the study of art insurance. Pairing her formal explanations with fascinating anecdotes, Straus shaped and colored the art insurance industry with remarkable and stunning mastery. By the end of the week Straus had participants map out the entire process of acquiring art insurance coverage in role-play exercises—a form of evaluation that was, I am sure, most entertaining for Dorit herself.

We then heard from private investigator Richard Ellis, the founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Squad. He covered lessons on the dark, seedy underbelly that is the black market and did a solid job explaining the ins and outs of INTERPOL and clarified the issues that police forces deal with in an event of art theft—issues that are quite distinct from the ones that insurers, collectors, or museums address.

One of the recurring lessons that Ellis repeated over and over again was the importance of knowing one’s enemy.  Understanding the motives that animate an episode of art crime, Ellis stressed, is always integral to the investigation process. At the conclusion of his course Ellis held a charming cocktail gathering that was, I would hold, much needed after a tense week studying some pretty serious material.

ARCA founder Noah Charney took the reigns for our next course on forgery. Charney launched his course with an art history lesson in which students were asked to perform visual analysis on a set of Caravaggio paintings. This exercise offered an exciting opportunity for students to truly interface with the very objects that had been broached in previous courses but perhaps not formally or materially addressed. It was a delight to work through Caravaggio’s endlessly fascinating visual puzzles, and Charney’s thorough guidance and insightful explanations proved to be especially useful in our brief art historical investigation. The rest of the week was spent differentiating (conceptually) fakes from forgeries, discussing the psychological profile of art forgers, and reviewing some of the major historical cases that constitute Charney’s sector of the art crime world. With Charney still in town, ARCA held its annual interdisciplinary conference—an exciting three days of panel discussions.

After a weekend of conference talks and cocktail parties ARCA participants met with security pundit Dick Drent. Following 25 years in law enforcement, Drent joined the staff at Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands and continues to provide security advising through his consulting firm. Though Drent’s energy and countenance might feel as formidable and high-stakes as his work, the Dutch professor’s instruction was often light and playful—much like the goofy videos he would screen at the beginning of class too lighten the mood.  This was especially appreciated given his course covers everything from everyday threats in a museum to Active Shooter incidents.

At the end of Drent’s class participants carried out a security audit at a museum. In this exercise we set out to observe surveillance cameras, security guards, museum layouts, fire prevention strategies, smoke detectors, alarm systems, and so on. The exercise gave ARCA participants a unique opportunity to spend a day at a museum not admiring precious artworks but instead observing the very security systems that attempt to protect these objects.

At the conclusion of Drent’s course we delved headfirst into “Art Crime During War” with Judge Arthur Tompkins. Tompkins’ hefty lesson plans and near-impeccable knowledge of world history made for an information-rich crash course in our study of art crime during conflict. At the outset of his first lesson Tompkins traced the origins of art crime all the way back to the ancient world.

The looting of what might be anachronistically termed “cultural property” often went part and parcel with military combat and imperial campaigns in the ancient world—thus giving birth to the lengthy history of what we now study as art crime. Tompkins then traversed the entire chronology of war—passing through the Middle Ages and early modernity until reaching the late twentieth century—and identified the various renditions of art crime that have plagued nation-states and peoples during times of conflict. By the end of the course participants were asked to submit a paper detailing one particular episode of art crime that took place in the midst of combat. Students wrote about everything from plunders during antiquity to more recent art theft in the Middle East to the destruction of libraries in the American Civil War. 

So there you have it! We have some of the covered vast terrain in the world art crime and are already halfway through this intensive training. I’ll get back to you with more storytelling and info when we’re only a few short steps away from calling ourselves full-on, to-the-core certificate-ready professionals!

By:  Christopher Falcone

December 28, 2018

Dick Drent returns to Amelia this summer to teach "risk management and crime prevention in museum security” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

In 2019, the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 31 through August 15, 2019 in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, a number of this year’s professors will be interviewed. 


The second in this series is Dick Drent, who teaches ARCA’s “Practical Approaches to Safeguarding Culture: Security Measures and Risk Assessment for Museums and Cultural Heritage Sites” course. Dick Drent was also one of the ARCA trainers in the UNESCO training "Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq" in Lebanon for participants from UNESCO member states in April 2018. 


Dick Drent
I met Dick at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands while he was on his way to Bangkok where he is consulting on the River Museum Bangkok (RMB) project and will be training their staff in proactive security. The RMB will open in July 2019, and will be the first museum in Thailand that will exhibit works from loaned international art collections.

Can you tell us something about your background and work? 

My background is based on law enforcement with the Dutch police, where I worked for 25 years, mainly involving international investigations hinging on organised crime. In that capacity I worked for 15 years in the Undercover and Sensitive Operations Unit on counter-terrorism projects and on setting up, running and managing (inter)national infiltration projects. I also worked as the Liaison Officer for the Dutch Police to the UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, a tribunal set up in 1992 for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law set up following the war in what is the former Yugoslavia.

In 2005 I was approached by the Van Gogh Museum to serve as their Director of Security, responsible for dealing with their threat and risk issues as it relates to the museum’s complex physical security as well as it's the museum’s approach to organizational, construction and electronic risk management. Leading up to my hire, these were not sufficient for a museum of this calibre and had resulted in the 2002 burglary of the museum in which two Van Gogh paintings were stolen. So, I was mandated to change and overhaul the museum’s overall security which I did, developing and implementing a new proactive security strategy which effectively assessed risk and minimized the potential of future breaches. Next to that I was pinpointed as chief investigator with the goal of getting the museum's two stolen Van Gogh paintings back. In 2016 after many years of tracing and tracking tips, gathering information, connecting with informants and conducting investigations all over Europe we were ultimately successful.

Press Conference about the recovery of the two stolen Van Gogh paintings
Fourteen years after the robbery, and in close cooperation with Italy’s Guardia Di Finanza of Naples, we were able to recover the paintings at a house connected to one of the bosses of the Camorra organized crime clans in Naples. There, the paintings were seized by law enforcement authorities and when authenticated, were returned to the Van Gogh Museum where they have been restored and are now once again a part of the museum’s collection.

In 2014 I left the Van Gogh Museum to further develop my own business enterprise where I continue to be successful in an advisory and consultancy capacity, a segment of which is specialized on providing security and risk training as it relates to protecting cultural heritage. 

I am also a business associate for two firms where I provide security and risk expertise outside the realm of cultural heritage. There I serve as a project leader for special operations in relation to asset tracing, tracking and recovery of stolen or embezzled goods or money, whether these are artefacts or goods, also looking at financial irregularities relating to large fraud investigations worldwide. 

So my work life was, and still is, very engaged and energizing. I love my work and have never seen it really as work. It is more as the Dutch say: “a hobby grown out of craftsmanship”. As a result, I can count the number of days that I have been unsatisfied with my job on one hand. So never a dull moment the last 42 years of my workable life. 

What do you feel is the most relevant part of your course? 

As it relates to my course with ARCA, aside from creating security awareness in the broadest sense of the word, especially for those participants who have no security experience in their backgrounds, the most relevant part of my course involves a change of mindset. 

This is done by literally letting them climb into the skin of the criminal or terrorist, where they are asked to assume an adversarial role or point of view in order to understand how easy it is to commit an art-related crime. By considering, how they themselves would set about attacking a museum or an archaeological site or infiltrating a private institution with the intent and goal of stealing or destroying something, they are better able to see and understand the site's security vulnerabilities, by simulating a real-world attack to evaluate the effectiveness of a site’s security defences and policies.

What do you hope participants will get out of your course? 

I want them to understand that the protection of cultural heritage doesn’t begin with chasing stolen, falsified, counterfeited, looted, plundered or destroyed art or heritage. I want them to learn that it starts with thinking about threats and threat actors and and risk in advance of an incident and exploring how we can prevent incidents before they happen. By changing from a reactive method of security as we know it, ergo, reacting to incidents after they occur, where, per definition, you are already too late to have prevented it), to a proactive strategy is what is needed for comprehensive security strategies. 

Proactivity involves identifying the hazardous conditions that can give rise to all manner of risk, which we address in a variety of methods, including predictive profiling, red teaming, utilizing security intelligence and other proactive approaches which lead to the actual protection of cultural heritage. 

A second thing I know for sure the participants come away with from my course is that when finished they will have a strong understanding of how security should, or more correctly, has to be an intrinsic part of any organisation. It’s not unusual for those who study under me, to say afterwards that they will never be able to walk into museum again without looking for the security issues at hand and in their head making a survey how easy it would be too…… 

For them, the days of solely enjoying a museum or art will be over. Forever.

Dick Drent with one of the ARCA classes
What would a typical day be like in your classroom? 

A typical lecture day would be an interactive one, where there is a place to discuss opinions, evaluate or change attitudes or approaches, a time to listen and a time to motivate while we study some serious stuff. I sometimes use humour in the process, as it’s a way of capturing and maintaining a participant’s attention while giving and exchanging information so that at the end of the day participants leave my lectures wanting to know even more about security.

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your courses, is there anything you learn from them in class? 

Every course I’ve taught in the last nine years has made me aware that security is not a static thing but very dynamic. And every year I add good things I have gleaned from that year’s participants for use in the course the following year. So, the participants help me improve the course and the output, which is something I value.

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants? 

Next to reading everything that is mentioned on the advanced reading lists we provide to participants, I would highly recommend reading the book: Managing the Unexpected (2007) by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. This book discusses the ideas behind the High Reliability Organization (HRO) and it's principles. In my opinion every organization that is involved in the protection of cultural heritage, should be managed as an HRO. Read it and you will find out why.

Dick Drent teaching in Lebanon
What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique?

Me teaching there, of course. :o) But seriously, the uniqueness of the ARCA program for its participants, and the professional experiences of the lecturers make it exceptional. But also the conference in the middle of the program, in the mediaeval town of Amelia makes this a truly unique opportunity which should not be missed as participants get to meet not only the eleven professors attached to the courses but a host of other experts from around the globe who are working in this sector. Combined this covers everything you ever wanted to know to have a broad comprehensive knowledge base of art crime, in the broadest sense of the word.

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why? 

“The High Stakes World of Art Policing, Protection and Investigation” by Dick Ellis. Because, as a former police officer, the approach of this topic by Dick Ellis is very intriguing. Especially exploring the ways and possibilities of utilizing police investigative findings and prosecutorial decisions as a door opener to convince the “holder” of art that is stolen, lost, disappeared or on another illegal way in his or her possession, that it would be better to give it back to its rightful owners.

Dick Ellis
Dick Ellis is, like me a retired cop, more than that, he is the founder of The Metropolitan Police's Art and Antiquities Squad at New Scotland Yard who now has a vibrant private practice recovering stolen artworks.  He has been responsible for a range of recoveries of famous works of art all over the world and is the director of the Art Management Group which he co-founded in 2005. 

He served in Special Operations at New Scotland Yard where he founded and ran the Art & Antiques Squad until 1999 when he left the police to become General Manager of Christie’s Fine Art Security Services. In 2000 he became Managing Director of Trace recovery services running a database and magazine for stolen art and antiques. Recoveries include Munch’s The Scream, Beit Collection paintings, Audubon’s Birds of America stolen from Russia’s State Library and over 7,000 antiquities looted from China and Egypt. Since 2008 he has been an Expert Advisor to Government on International Loans to Museums.

Is there anything you can recommend about the program or about it being in Amelia or Umbria? 

An added value to your investment in following this program in Amelia is the opportunity to develop one’s network with other participants and with all the professors and lectures who come to Umbria because of ARCA and the ARCA conference. This sometimes isn’t obvious in the beginning, but I am still in contact with a lot of the participants and presenters from the previous year’s courses and conferences and have also been able to connect them to other people in my network long after the summer is over. So, for a future career, even it is not clear yet what or how that career will look, this program offers opportunities too good not to make use of.!

Tip: Print business cards to give to the people you contact and ask for theirs. Make them notice you, by your questions and drive to learn.

Dick Drent discussing proactive security at a conference at the Smithsonian
Regarding Amelia, Umbria and of course Italy as a whole, there are not enough words even to begin to explain why someone should travel around in this big playground where every stone represents a part of history. Not to mention the beautiful food, wines and various dishes they serve in all the different regions and the friendship you can experience if you are really interested in the people and the country. It’s worth soaking up and living it!

Are there any funny or interesting things you have experienced in Italy, outside of class? 

I always plan sometime before or after the course to lengthen my stay and not only in Amelia but also to see other parts of Italy, this in relation to the things mentioned above. For me and my wife Petra, ARCA and its people have become family, or at least very good friends. The drive and energy we get out of our stay there lasts us through the autumn. Maybe not necessarily funny but still a fact about what Italy can do with you and for you when you know the right people and when you are open to it. 

One of the festivals in Amelia...
What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June?

Throughout the years that the Amelia Conference has taken place, I have watched it become more and more focused and specialized. The number of attendees has also grown from 40-50 at its start to well over 100-120 attendees, even without using publishing or marketing tools. That is what a conference should be about, interesting topics, good speakers, interesting discussions and the opportunity to network and get to know people. Due to my work, I am not always able to attend every year and feel this as a missed opportunity to grow and to extend my knowledge and network. For the participants it is very important to be there and to connect with the people that could be interesting for their line of work or career or just because it is good to meet interesting people. This applies also the other way around. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the participants during this coming 2019 program!

 -----------

For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org  

Edgar Tijhuis at the ARCA Library
Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

September 11, 2018

Recovery: Gold Objects stolen from the Nizam Museum

Image Credit: Hyderabad Police

Holding a press conference in Hyderabad, authorities announced that the  gold tiffin box, saucer, cup & spoon stolen from Nizam Museum on September 3rd have been recovered by Hyderabad Police. The two accused, Mohammed Gaus Pasha (23) and a relative Mohammed Mubeen (24) from the Himayat Sagar area of ​​the city have been arrested.

The pair of thieves had accessed the museum by dislodging a four-feet wide ventilation grill and then dropping some 20 feet down into the exhibition gallery.  

For full details on the theft please see ARCA's earlier blog post here. 

September 5, 2018

Museum Theft: Nizam Museum (HEH Nizam's Museum) Hyderabad, India


According to local authorities, thieves broke into the Nizam Museum housed on the first floor of the Purani Haveli palace located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India sometime on the evening of Sunday, September 2, 2018.  The palace, located just a few kilometers away from Chowmahalla Palace, is also home to a library and the Mukarram Jah Technical Institute.

In the past the palace was once the official residence of the Nizam, the last of whom ruled over the region from 1911 to 1948, when Hyderabad State was annexed by India.  The museum showcases many gifts that the 7th and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII received on his silver jubilee in 1936.  The museum  has been privately run by the Nizam’s Jubilee Pavillion Trust, and managed by descendants of the Nizam since the year 2000.  It houses approximately 450 objects in its collection.

Dislodging a four-feet wide ventilation grill, the burglar or burglars appear to have worked as a coordinated pair, dropping some 20 feet down into the exhibition gallery.  


Once inside one of the culprits broke into a non alarmed exhibition case and removed a three-tier diamond-studded gold tiffin box with trays carved with flora and fauna, as well as a golden tea cup and saucer embedded with ruby and emeralds, a spoon and a tray which once belonged to the 7th Nizam. Tiffins (or dhabbas) are traditionally round metal lunch containers with three or four stacking compartments used for serving traditional homemade thali lunches which feature bread, pickles, spicy curries, and sometimes desserts.


Once the goods were in hand, the thief was then hoisted back up and out of the same way he entered before making their getaway.



The loss was discovered the following morning by the museum's personnel who discovered the broken locks and empty showcase and then alerted the police.


CCTV Footage of suspected burglers

Journalists in India report that workers at the museum have been asking for security upgrades for quite some time.   Initial thoughts on the theft are leaning towards someone familiar with its limited security as one of the limited number of museum CCTV cameras had been tilted in such a way as to limit the image capture of the burgler(s). 

October 3, 2016

Conference: The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF)


The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF) will be hosted at the NewcastleGateshead Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne, Friday, November 11, 2016 and will focus on various topics related to texisting or emerging threats and risks for those in the field interested in the protection of arts and antiquities.

Of benefit to security professionals and the wider heritage protection sector including, gallery owners, shippers, insurance companies and curators the event will include presentations on the importance of security in protecting culture and art, the scale of threat to UK arts and antiquities, the threat of terrorism as it relates to art and antiquities, operational best practices in crime prevention for museums and houses of worship, (both physical & technical) as well as how to protect art and antiquities during transit and the ever increasing roll of conservators in the field of heritage protection.

The content of the presentations has been specifically designed to enable everybody to take away a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the issues that exist, experiencing best practises and being exposed to great innovations; both technical and operational that will help reduce and manage risk.

The IAASF event will bring together an international range of presenters including

Director of Security, UK Christie’s London

National Security Adviser, Arts Council England

Owner and Managing Director of Trident Manor and Chair and IAASF Chair, IAASF

Founder and Director of AA&R -Art Analysis & Research Ltd.

Sr. Insurance Consultant, Former CEO, AXA Art

Security & Safety Manager, National Gallery of Ireland

Detective Superintendent - Major Crime, Organised Crime and Special Branch, Durham Constabulary

Archaeologist, Specialist in Conflict Antiquities

Executive Director, National Maritime Museum - Amsterdam and Advisor to the Dutch Government on Cultural Operations

Committee Chair, Cultural Properties – Houses of Worship, ASIS

Member of the Cultural Heritage Council, ASIS International

Paid registration to the International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum includes: 

  • Full day of presentations
  • Tea, coffee, snacks and lunch
  • Drinks reception served in the Riverside Terrace
For more information please see the Forum's website here. 

April 5, 2015

Report from Tunisia: After the Massacre at the Bardo Museum, Women and Families show up to Show Support

Women showing support (morning)
By Rita Sumano, ARCA Alumna Class of 2015

The Bardo Massacre

Tunisia’s democratic transition has been wounded by the atrocious attack at the Bardo Museum last 18th of March. Under the machinegun fire of Qatiba Okba Ibn Nafâa, a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, 22 people died and more than 40 were injured.

Despite the claim of responsibility from the so called Islamic State, Tunisian authorities identified 21 individuals of Okba Ibn Nafâa split into four operative groups that carefully planned the operation (1). The role of the first group was to choose the target and make the necessary reconnaissance of the museum. The second group was responsible for the logistics, the provision of weapons, and explosives. The third group perpetrated the attack, while the fourth group taped and disseminated the images through the internet. 

Families gathering in from of the museum (morning)
The timing and venue were not casually chosen.  The complex commonly called “the Bardo” bears a deep historic and symbolic value, as it was a palace of the Beys, the former rulers of the country.  After Tunisia’s Independence, one wing was converted into a museum and the other wing turned into the Parliament, now the Assembly of the People's Representatives. The unique mosaic collection of the Bardo Museum – the largest in the world - contains mainly Roman art. In this context, the attack could be interpreted as a violent message against both democracy and any other form of non-Islamic culture.

Geologist Jallouli holding a sign saying
"No to terrorism" "No fear, no panic,
Tunisia is protected by its people"
(morning) 
The attack was also timely as the National Terrorist Act was being discussed that same morning in the Parliament; children had school holidays and were present in the musuem in great numbers; and, as reported by a guide present at the scene (2), terrorists waited for the arrival of tourist buses coming from the cruise ships that dock every Wednesday at La Goulette.  Hiding machine guns in large backpacks, they had time to spread out through the Museum and wait for the visitors to arrive.  Tourists were selected as a suitable target to wreck the country’s shaken economy, highly dependent on tourism.  

As a result of this murderous attack, the lead suspect of the cell and 46 terrorists (3) have been eliminated or arrested.  Several heads of security in charge of the Bardo area, as well as six commanders of police and intelligence services have been dismissed.(4)

The Tuesday After
International media said the museum would open to the public on Tuesday 24th, but the few hundred people that showed up could only gather around the gate.  Inside, an official opening ceremony was taking place.  Security was tight, polite but tense.  Under steady rain, men, women, and children gathered to show support.  The feeling floating in the air was neither anger nor fear, but rather sadness.

I spoke to Geologist Kamal Jallouli, representative of the civil society at the National Parliament, who had been there a few hours before the attack.  Emotionally touched, he told me about his childhood when he would spend Sundays exploring the museum’s collection with his parents.  He praises the long, diverse history of the country and warns me that the investigation into the attack is still open. I knew that there would be many answers he could not provide, but I still asked the questions:

Q. Some international sources talk about the attack being initially directed at the Parliament but that ended up taking place in the museum. Nevertheless, it looked to me as if the venue was carefully selected.  Do you think the attack was initially directed to the parliament?
-“No”, he answered shortly.

Q. In that case, one might infer that the terrorists were familiar with the museum, and must have visited it many times.  Could they have been identified had the museum guards carried out effective surveillance? 
-“I guess so”

Q. Is it plausible to think of an insider providing assistance?
-“I cannot answer that question”

Q. Do you think this type of attack could escalate into plundering Tunisia’s heritage sites? 

Kamal Jallouli is confident that as we speak, security forces are being deployed to guard archeological sites, other museums and touristic spots.  He doesn’t think that this incident is part of a larger plot.

Q. A few days before the attack, downtown Tunis looked heavily guarded: police checkpoints, dogs sniffing cars, hand bags being checked and several forces being deployed. So why, in such a “hot spot” was security so lax?

–“Because we Tunisians are candid, we have no tradition of violence”, he replies with a shy smile.  

His answer is the most convincing one I have received so far.

Foreign demonstrators showing support (afternoon)
Hours passed by, and as steady rain was transformed into a downpour, a human river also flooded the streets around the Bardo Museum.  Nearly 50,000 people of all sorts and several nations participated in an inspirational, almost spontaneous, demonstration against terrorism. The museum’s gate was the final goal of the crowds taking part in the march.   The happy coincidence with the World Social Forum taking place in Tunis, engrossed the international presence and added to the feeling of solidarity.

In parallel, the deployment and weaponry of security forces was significantly heavier than in the early hours, but the ambiance was festive and police and army elements were friendly.  Participants would smile and take proud pictures with police and military… certainly not the typical interaction between security forces and demonstrators.

Under the rain, music, dance, chants and cameras show how cultural heritage could be an effective tool to build peace.  The feeling floating in the air was hope. 

Proud demonstrators
with friendly soldier
 (afternoon)
Museum Security

The Bardo attack had a triple target: it was an attack against democracy, against tourism and against culture. The Bardo Museum is not an exceptional example of how close, physically and symbolically, many museums are to power centers.  Many other cities in the world could have been victims of such an attack, and this should send a warning to all cultural institutions: to be fully prepared for this and other types of catastrophes.  

In recent years, we have witnessed how cultural heritage has been devastated due to political instability, religious fundamentalism, and armed conflicts; similar crimes, could be perpetrated in comparable places. 

Operators should engage in an active preventive role, carrying out proper selection and training of staff and making sure that the risk to visitors, personnel or the collection is minimized.  Museum security is a professional activity that should not be left to amateurs.

The accompanying photos were all taken by the author on March 24, 2015.

(1) Tunise - Attaque terroriste due Bardo: Le point sur l'enquête, in Tunisie Numérique, 25/03/2015, 11:44.

(2) Frida Dahmani. "Attentat du Bardo: l'musée de l'horreur", in Jeune Afrique, 24/03/2015, 8:28.


(4) "Attentat du Bardo: Le gouvernement Tunisien pass a l'offensive", in Jeune Afrique, 23/3/2015, 12: 35

March 18, 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - ,, No comments

Tunis, Tunisia: Museum attack ends with death of 17 foreign tourists and 2 Tunisians at National Bardo Museum of Carthage artifacts and Roman mosaics

Image is from the BBC website
Update: CBC News: "Tunisian PM: 17 foreign tourists, 2 Tunisians killed in attack" at the National Bardo Museum. This is also confirmed by the International Business Times and other sources on Twitter (search #Bardoattack).

Italian tourists on cruise of Mediterranean were reportedly inside the museum at the time of the attack.

Radio Mosaique FM reported the death of 15 people: 13 tourists of various nationalities and two Tunisians.

Leila Fadel, Cairo Bureau Chief for NPR is on the scene and has tweeted: "Stand off at bardo museum over. Police killed two of the gunmen and captured one. #Bardoattack"

BBC reported earlier here:
At least seven foreign tourists and a Tunisian have been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the the Tunisian capital, officials say. Tourists from several European countries were taken hostage, a local radio station reported. The shooting happened at the Bardo Museum, which is next to the parliament building in central Tunis.
The National Bardo Museum has artifacts from Carthage and a large collection of Roman mosaics. The museum's website describes its "101 masterpieces" in both French and English.

CBC has reported that "Tunisian officials say museum siege is over; 2 gunmen killed" (breaking news via CBC's mobile application for news).

The Associated Press (AP) reported the death of two gunmen, a security officer, and several tourists.

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.