by Andy Davis
[republished from the ASIS Cultural Properties Council Newsletter, Volume 2, March 2017]
The setting for the inaugural International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAAS-Forum 2016) could not have been better. The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts standing on the southern bank of the River Tyne mixed the historical culture of the region with a modern vibrant venue.
There was a wonderful blend of British and international delegates and speakers; some of whom had travelled from the USA specifically for the event, all networking before the start of the event.
The Chair of the IAAS-Forum Andy Davis (and Council member) opened the event before passing onto the event Keynote Speaker, Michael Huijser the Executive Director of the Dutch National Maritime Museum and a Dutch government museums advisor. Mr. Huijser truly set the scene for the speakers that followed by outlining the importance of security and the cultural world.
The opening section of the event really established the context for the Forum and showed the threats that exist both within the UK and internationally. Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Green discussed how organised criminal targeted UK museums and successfully got away with over artefacts worth over £57 million, very sobering. He was followed by Julian Radcliffe the CEO of The Arts Loss Register who outlined the international scale and terrorist use of art and antiques to fund their activities.
Andy was able to get some great audience participation by demonstrating how multiple layers of security can protect jewels; in this case ‘Ferrero Rocher’™ chocolates! This presentation was a great introduction to the next section which was led by Jim McGuffey who discussed the protection of places of worship and target hardening. This caused many of the audience to comment on the innovation put forward by Jim and the benefits of his presentation.
The next two presentations were provided by the Council International lead, Ricardo Sanz, who had flown in from Spain and Declan Garrett who had travelled from Dublin. What was interesting was that although both were discussing security operations Ricardo looked at historical and technical perspectives whilst Declan provided excellent reasons why organisations should invest in their security personnel and the broader benefits they can bring.
The next speaker is somebody whom many of the delegates were keen to hear and that was William Brown the National Security Advisor from the Arts Council. William, who is always smiling, discussed the security standards and best practises needed to qualify for the government indemnity scheme relating to loans of governmental artworks.
Finally, there was a panel discussion involving specialist support services for the arts and antiquities world. The panel consisted of Dr Nicholas Eastaugh, a scientist specialising in profile and authentication of arts, Annabel Fell-Clark the former head of AXA Art insurance and William Brown discussing the movement and transportation of art. Some really testing questions were asked of the panel but they were able to answer and educate the delegates I some pretty specific, but important topics.
In addition to the speakers there were exhibitors who had obviously been selected because of their services and support to the arts and culture sectors. There were specialist glazing providers, drone pilots, CCTV and barrier security manufacturers. The highlight of the exhibitors came in the form of one of the main event sponsors who demonstrated over the lunchtime the capabilities and effects of their fogging product; I can certainly vouch that I was blinded and unlike other cloaking devices did not leave any reside.
The Forum was closed by the event Chair with a promise of more to come in 2017. Drinks and canapés were served in the glass fronted lobby overlooking the beautiful Tyneside Quayside.
What struck me about the event was the quality of the speakers and the obvious thought that had been put into the content to ensure its relevance to as many of the delegates as possible; but without detracting from the theme behind the event. The delegates genuinely seemed to enjoy and appreciate the efforts and the whole nature of the event. Michael Hole, a Director with Vinovium Associates described it as, “The best seminar I’ve been to in years, with some really excellent speakers!” A sentiment that was echoed by many of the other delegates.Interestingly the event organisers have already had requests from international speakers and delegates for the 2017 event. This has demonstrated the desire within the sector for this type of specialist event to be made available to not only museums but galleries, private collectors and associated organisations. By having the Council at the forefront of these type of events not only increases the profile of the individuals but also that of the Cultural Properties Council.