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Monday, August 23, 2004

Proposed Security Enhancements in Light of the Munch Theft

In all the chatter in the media and around the blogosphere today about Sunday's theft of two Edvard Munch paintings, what surprised me most was the method the thieves used to secure their booty. The article in today's New York Times says:

In the theft on Sunday, two robbers, wearing dark ski hats over their faces, burst into the Munch Museum in Oslo at 11:10 a.m. and threatened unarmed guards with pistols, the police said.

Speaking in Norwegian, one of the men held two guards at gunpoint, ordering them to the floor, while the other used a wire cutter to clip the framed paintings free of the wall, museum officials said. Witnesses described the thieves as clumsy, even dropping the paintings on the way out.

This wasn't the typical cloak-and-dagger, highly-planned, after-hours heist that comes to mind when I think of art theft. This was a B-grade bank robbery that occurred in a museum. Combine this incident with the theft last summer at Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland, and you have the basis for what might become a trend.

As if they didn't have enough to worry about already, now museum directors need to ensure that their security strategies cover potential daytime hijacking of the works in their collections.

In the spirit of helpfulness, I thought I would propose a few new security policies to help protect against the kind of theft that occurred at the Munch Museum. For starters, every museum ought to adopt these new safeguards:
The situation started me wondering about what the staff at Dia (one New York institution selected somewhat randomly by me) will have to do to increase security levels in response to this new threat. In addition to the general policies listed above, here's what I propose Dia do to protect some of its more unique and desirable works.

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