INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Newsweek
The Getty fire in California is burning the fringes of the Getty Center property, but an official told Newsweek the museum wasn't concerned about its priceless works of art being damaged by the flames. The architecture and the landscaping were designed with fire prevention in mind.
"This is one of the safest places for art," Lisa Lapin, vice president of communications for the Getty Trust told Newsweek. "Walls and rooftops are stone or metal so embers aren't going to get in."
Around 1:30 a.m. PDT on Monday morning, a brush fire ignited along the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles near the Getty Center, a campus that includes the Getty museum, conservation and research institutes and foundation. Within hours, the fire grew to over 500 acres, at least five homes were damaged and officials ordered mandatory evacuations.
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) officials credited the fire's rapid spreading to high winds, an issue that threatened large portions of the state. On Sunday, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued another round of red flag warnings and fire weather watches for California counties, including Los Angeles. Low humidity coupled with high Santa Ana winds and dry vegetation is a prime situation for wildfires to spark and spread.
"It's a dangerous season right now," Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said during a press conference. "Santa Ana winds pick up historically in September and last through April. We have not had any significant rainfall for a period of time. So, that's why we're very, very concerned about these weather conditions."
Aptly dubbed the Getty fire due to its proximity to the Getty Center, which houses a collection of masterpieces by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Leonardo da Vinci, Lapin told Newsweek that by 8:30 a.m., the fire was on the fringes of the property. This didn't cause concern for the art, though, as the center was built to withstand the threat of fire.
"That was one of the incentives of the architect," Lapin said. "Some of [the design] was for the aesthetic and some of it was for fire prevention."
To prevent loss of human life, mandatory evacuations were ordered for more than 10,000 structures and other residents were cautioned to prepare to leave at a moment's notice. While residents left the area, more than 600 firefighters worked to save people's homes and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti applauded their heroic efforts.
Terrazas noted it wasn't the first fire his crew has had to deal with this season, either. California experienced its deadliest and most destructive wildfires in 2017 and 2018 and so far, in 2019, there have been 5,819 fire incidents and more than 162,000 acres burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
Along with ground personnel, the LAFD, in conjunction with other agencies, deployed a number of air tankers and helicopters, including assigning some to the Getty Center. Lapin said they were doing "drop after drop" of water and fire retardant. She credited crews for being "amazing," and said they were "taking very good care of us."
While Lapin was confident the Getty Center would be "just fine," she said the organization was concerned about their neighbors, who don't have the advantage of being on the top of a hill.
"We feel terrible there's going to be a loss of homes," Lapin said. "It's really tragic."
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Reposted from the Art Newspaper
Palermo, 18 October 1969: it’s a dark and stormy night and two low-lifes in a Piaggio Ape are driving along the Via Immacolatella in the historic centre. They stop at the Oratory of San Lorenzo, break in and make straight for Caravaggio’s Nativity hanging above the altar, cut the canvas from its frame with a razor, roll it up and leave.
This is the opening sequence of one of the most notorious art thefts in history, a sequence that some still find credible. Fifty years on, though, the crime has still not been solved. The passage of time and the endless versions of events offered by informers and pseudo-detectives have taken over the inquiries, while the actual fate of the Nativity remains shrouded in mystery.
Here we sum up a few of the most imaginative hypotheses based on the opening sequence outlined above.
This stream of stories, boasts and false leads has kept the police busy for years and has led to just two conclusions: the painting was stolen by the mafia, and it was then destroyed.
In 2017, however, the case was re-opened by the anti-mafia commission, led by its president, the government minister Rosy Bindi. Having acquired new statements from Mannoia and another pentito, Gaetano Grado, the commission concluded that the painting still exists and that after it was relinquished by the boss Gaetano Badalamenti (one of the most powerful traffickers in the Sicilian heroin trade with the US, who died in a US prison in 2004), it was cut up and is now in Switzerland.
This report is undoubtedly significant and although it contains a number of logistical and geographical inaccuracies in the statements made by the two pentiti—and not all antique dealers consulted agree that it is likely the painting was cut up—the document has the great merit of resurrecting the work, identifying the role of Badalamenti and suggesting where it might be.
Attention has focused again on the accusations, levied immediately after the theft by Monsignor Rocco, custodian of the Oratory, against Badalamenti. Although these were ignored at the time, Rocco stated that, after being shown a piece of canvas as proof, he opened the way to possible negotiations but was stopped by the then state official for works of art, Vincenzo Scuderi.
Relations between the two were particularly tense because Scuderi had not listened to the priest’s requests, made well before the theft, to tighten the security of the building, and, against Rocco’s wishes, he had also authorised RAI, the state broadcasting company, to film a programme on hidden treasures inside the oratory, which was broadcast in August 1969. Rocco blamed this programme for the theft. The anti-mafia commission’s investigations are basing themselves on Rocco’s statements accusing Badalamenti of having the painting, and this would clearly be a lead to follow now.
This rapid overview of the situation raises a number of questions that have never been answered by earlier investigations. First, when was Caravaggio’s Nativity actually stolen? The congregation saw it for the last time at Sunday mass on 12 October 1969, and the Gelfo sisters, the caretakers of the oratory, noticed it had gone missing on Saturday 18 October when they entered the oratory to prepare for the mass on the following day. The theft must, therefore, have been committed between 12 and the 18 October, which allows time for the work to have been smuggled out of Palermo. News of the theft was only reported in Giornale di Sicilia on 20 October.
Second, the police report on the state of the premises, a vital document for understanding the theft, has disappeared.
Third, is the opening sequence as described above, and taken as the basis for all subsequent investigations, credible? Could the removal of a painting measuring 3x2 metres, on particularly heavy wooden stretchers, hanging at a height of six metres and surrounded by the delicate plasterwork of Giacomo Serpotta, to which there was no damage whatsoever, really have been the work of two common thieves?
And what of removing the canvas with a razor blade without leaving a single millimetre of paint on the remaining shreds? The excision was carried out with extreme skill and precision and can neither have been rushed or improvised.
So, if this was not the work of two delinquents who happened to break into the oratory and carry off the canvas after slashing it out of its frame, then the most probable hypothesis is that the theft was well prepared and carried out to order, perhaps by professionals.
Indeed, this suspicion was voiced at the time in the headline of Giornale di Sicilia, and it was repeated by Maresciallo Guelfo Giuliano Andrei of the newly formed Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (division for the protection of cultural heritage), sent to Palermo to coordinate the investigations, who issued a statement saying that “the theft was not opportunistic, but may have been ordered by a gang of international, organised criminals using local operatives in Palermo”.
This hypothesis was abandoned too soon, probably in order to follow the confessions and revelations offered by pentiti mafiosi, and it would now be worth reinvestigating, with leads to Switzerland and to Badalamenti’s role as the person who either ordered the theft or paid those who carried it out.
Last, it is worth mentioning the thought-provoking theory of a local anthropologist, scholar and mafia expert who suggests that the mafia had nothing to do with the theft but became its victim because such an outrageous act threatened its claim to territorial control and its international prestige as an organised criminal network. It therefore laid claim to the theft and boasted about it with numerous different versions of the story, all of which ending, of course, in the destruction of the Nativity.
Fifty years have passed. Many of the protagonists have died, but no stone is being left unturned now and hope is still alive. It relies on trust in the continuing investigation, on chance discovery, or the miracle of a deathbed repentance by the unlawful possessor, who knows that they will shortly meet their Maker.
Reposted from The Smithsonian
By now, most people are familiar with the Monuments Men, a cadre of museum curators, art historians and archaeologists tasked by the U.S. Army with finding and safeguarding European art masterpieces from destruction as World War II raged across the continent. Now, the Army and the Smithsonian Institution, partially inspired by that effort, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to bring back a modern version of the group.
The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, signed the agreement on Monday at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., where the personal papers and artifacts associated with the original Monuments Men are housed.
Under the new program, the Smithsonian will help train and support U.S. soldiers whose mission it is to make sure military operations do not damage or destroy culturally significant areas or artifacts during armed combat.
Sarah Cascone at artnet News reports that the Army actually began reconstituting the Monuments Men (and now Women) back in 2015, recruiting cultural specialists to join the Army Reserves. The Smithsonian has led some day-long workshops to help train these officers, but the new arrangement will be more formalized, with the centerpiece being a week-long training held in March.
“We’ll be learning from each other—these are people who already have a background and expertise as cultural heritage professionals,” Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative director Cori Wegener, who served as a Civil Affairs Arts, Monuments, and Archives officer in Iraq, tells Cascone. “It’s a really historic agreement between the Army and the Smithsonian.”
The cultural experts enrolled in the new program will be Army Reserve officers serving under the Civil Affairs branch. Since they are reservists, they will not be deployed full-time. Instead, they will be attached to military units as needed and may be deployed to conflict areas. The age limit for joining the Army reserves, currently 35, has been waived so more qualified cultural specialists can join the program.
Cascone reports the initial group of 25 cultural heritage preservation officers will be drawn from qualified officers already in the Army Reserves. But the unit may directly seek out specialists from museums and cultural institutions in the future. “There are discussions about a program involving direct commissions for candidates with the right education background and skill set who might want to join the military,” Wegener says.
The officers will be tasked with advising and assisting military commanders when executing military operations, like telling them areas to avoid during airstrikes and places where extra security may be needed to avoid looting. The officers will advise on non-combat deployments as well. For instance, after the U.S. military deployed to Haiti in 2010 to help out after a catastrophic earthquake struck, 35,000 items of cultural value were pulled from the rubble. The new officers will help coordinate similar efforts.
“In conflict, the destruction of monuments and the looting of art are not only about the loss of material things, but also about the erasure of history, knowledge, and a people’s identity,” Smithsonian ambassador-at-large Richard Kurin said at the announcement, report Ralph Blumenthal and Tom Mashberg at The New York Times. “The cooperation between the Smithsonian and the U.S. Army aims to prevent this legal and moral crime of war.”
For many, this type of unit is long overdue. Marine reserve colonel and head of the Antiquities Tracking Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Matthew Bogdanos was in Baghdad in 2003 when looters ransacked the Iraq National Museum. Despite warnings from archaeologists and State Department cultural specialists, the military failed to initially secure the museum. Bogdanos set up an ad hoc team to secure the museum and helped track down about 3,000 of the stolen items, a mission he chronicles in his book Thieves of Baghdad. He tells the Times this type of military and cultural collaboration is sorely needed. “It was a great idea when I first proposed it in back in 2003, and it is even more crucial in today’s world where antiquities trafficking often funds terrorism,” he says.
The military also has some legal imperatives toward establishing this program now. Cascone reports that in 2009, the U.S. finally joined the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, which obligates signatory nations to establish and maintain units of specialist personnel to safeguard cultural property during wartime. “Each country is supposed to work to make sure their military understands their responsibility of protecting cultural heritage and to avoid damaging that heritage during armed conflict,” Wegener tells Cascone. “It’s an ethical and moral responsibility of all cultural institutions around the world.”
The U.S. military isn’t the only one thinking about cultural protection. The United Kingdom, which also recently ratified the Hague Cultural Property Convention, also established a Cultural Property Protection Unit as part of the British Army in October, 2018.
Reposted from UNESCO
The first guide for the insurance industry to protect our world’s priceless and irreplaceable assets was launched today at a major event by UN Environment’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) in São Paulo, Brazil, convening leading insurers, investors and banks.
The pioneering guide, Protecting our World Heritage, Insuring a Sustainable Future, builds on last year’s launch of the first insurance industry statement of commitment to protect World Heritage Sites. The statement is supported by leading insurers—writing about USD 170 billion in gross premiums and managing USD 2.7 trillion in assets—as well as by insurance associations and key stakeholders around the world.
To develop the guide, UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance Initiative (PSI)—the largest collaboration between the UN and the insurance industry—worked with its member insurers, WWF and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre, and was supported by ECOFACT, a sustainability service provider.
The main aim is to provide practical guidance to insurers on how to prevent or reduce the risk of insuring and investing in companies or projects whose activities could damage World Heritage Sites, particularly in relation to sectors such as oil and gas, mining, and large-scale hydropower. Other relevant sectors include logging, fishing, agriculture, plantations, and large-scale infrastructure such as pipelines, roads and mega-ports.
World Heritage Sites are recognised for their unparalleled beauty, global significance and/or biological diversity and the important economic, social and environmental benefits they provide. Natural World Heritage Sites, in particular, provide vital resources such as food and water, and contribute significantly to economies through jobs, tourism and recreation. They also deliver critical environmental services such as stabilising soils, preventing floods and capturing carbon, all of which increase our resilience to the most harmful impacts of a warming climate. However, almost half of all natural World Heritage Sites are threatened by industrial activities and large infrastructure developments, which may cause irreversible damage.
“Protecting World Heritage Sites for present and future generations is not an option, but an obligation for all. Losing these treasures means losing sources of life, inspiration and human well-being, and losing the war against unsustainable development,” said Butch Bacani, who leads the PSI at UN Environment and who launched the guide in São Paulo. “This guide will help insurers protect our world’s most prized assets in their risk management, insurance and investment activities, while curbing carbon emissions, building disaster resilience, and ensuring healthy ecosystems. We call on insurers around the world to unite behind the science, show decisive leadership, and take ambitious action in insuring a sustainable future.”
“Natural World Heritage Sites include some of the world’s most amazing landscapes. A source of wonder and inspiration, they also provide critical habitats and vital services such as freshwater,” said Margaret Kuhlow, WWF Finance Practice Leader. “This practical guide will enable the insurance sector to make long-term investment decisions that reflect the value of natural World Heritage Sites and support the 11 million people who depend on them for their well-being. We look forward to continuing our work with UNESCO and PSI to support the industry in implementing this guidance.”
Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture said, “By proposing sites as World Heritage sites, countries recognise their importance for humankind and commit to protect them. But conserving World Heritage sites is the duty of every one of us. Too many World Heritage sites are threatened by unsustainable development or large-scale infrastructure. We believe the banking and insurance sectors can significantly contribute to protecting these outstanding places by ensuring that their portfolios avoid projects which could impact them. This publication is a very practical and hands-on toolkit on how to achieve this.”
The PSI-WWF-UNESCO guide explains the risks that insurers face and outlines a set of basic and advanced recommendations that insurers can implement in their risk management, insurance and investment activities. The recommendations span key areas of action: 1) accessing data and understanding best practice; 2) raising awareness and supporting widespread action; 3) developing and implementing a World Heritage Sites risk approach; 4) protecting World Heritage Sites proactively; and 5) engaging clients and investee companies. The guide also provides insightful case studies, and a sample World Heritage Sites risk assessment checklist for insurers.
Critically, the principles of good risk management and sustainability embodied in the guide can also be used for various types of protected areas—from strict nature reserves, wilderness areas and national parks; to natural monuments and features, and protected landscapes and seascapes—as well as Ramsar sites, wetlands of international importance.
As a joint effort by the PSI, WWF and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the guide shows that collaboration is essential. It is a call to action for insurers around the world to join the global effort to protect the priceless and irreplaceable assets that make up our World Heritage for present and future generations.
Signatories to the insurance industry statement of commitment to protect World Heritage Sites include: AGROASEMEX (Mexico), Allianz (Germany), Caixa Seguradora (Brazil), Interamerican (Greece), La Banque Postale (France), Liberty Seguros (Brazil), Mongeral Aegon (Brazil), Nat Re (Philippines), Peak Re (Hong Kong SAR, China), Porto Seguro (Brazil), RepRisk (Switzerland), Risk Management Solutions (USA), SCOR (France), Seguradora Líder DPVAT (Brazil), Sompo Japan Nipponkoa (Japan), Swiss Re (Switzerland), Tokio Marine Seguradora (Brazil), the Brazilian Insurance Confederation (CNseg), Certified Sustainable Insurance Partners (USA), Earth Security Group (UK), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the Insurance Council of New Zealand, the Microinsurance Network, and the Philippines Insurers & Reinsurers Association
Laurent Jumelle, CEO, Caixa Seguradora (Brazil): “By becoming part of a global group of insurance companies that support the agenda of world heritage protection, Caixa Seguradora reaffirms its commitment with environmental preservation whereas shaping its future through positive results on both preservation and management of environmental risks.”
Carlos Magnarelli, CEO, Liberty Seguros (Brazil): “At Liberty Seguros we believe that sustainable development is everyone’s duty. We invest in social initiatives generating shared value and we consider ESG criteria in our actions, projects and partnerships also we collaborate for the environment, managing the waste from our business. Supporting the World Heritage Protection agenda reinforces our commitment to the sustainability of the planet. Protecting irreplaceable assets should be a commitment of all.”
José Carlos Mota, Director, Governance, Risk & Compliance, Mongeral Aegon (Brazil): “Mongeral Aegon’s mission is to protect the future of people, which includes understanding, managing and taking risks, and encouraging innovative action. We sign this declaration as we understand that we have an obligation to continue taking care of public assets, reaffirming participation in programs such as United Nations initiatives and Adote.Rio, and contributing to the development of society as an organization committed to sustainable planning and that enables new business.”
Eckart Roth, Chief Risk Officer, Peak Re (Hong Kong SAR, China) & Member of the PSI Board: “Protecting cultural heritage is a way to protect the communities around them, by building in economic resilience for these communities who derive their livelihoods linked to the heritage protected. Peak Re was built with the purpose to protect the emerging middle class through supporting the needs of their communities through reinsurance. We are pleased to be acting in support of this important cause.”
Roberto de Souza Santos, CEO, Porto Seguro (Brazil): “The Porto Seguro Cia de Seguros Gerais, as one of the leading insurance companies in the Brazilian market and responsible risk and capital manager, recognizes that World Heritage is a driving force for the economic, social and environmental sustainability of our country and the world. Thus, we are committed, whenever possible in the development of our business and services, to ensure the preservation and reduction of risks that threaten the exceptional universal value of those places.”
Daniel Stander, Global Managing Director, RMS (USA): “World Heritage Sites are uniquely significant. They provide important socioeconomic and environmental benefits. They are, however, at serious risk. Insurance companies play a triple role as the world’s risk managers: as physical risk managers, as financial risk managers and as investment risk managers. Today’s launch is an important demonstration of the insurance industry’s leadership. The guide offers practicable ideas for re/insurers to deploy their unique risk management expertise in support of the global effort to protect our World Heritage and the significant benefits thereof.”
Dr Philipp Aeby, CEO, RepRisk (Switzerland): “Safeguarding protected areas is crucial for biodiversity conservation and we are pleased to see an industry guide that helps insurers worldwide in doing so. RepRisk is a proud supporter of the commitment to protect World Heritage Sites and encourage enhanced risk assessment and transparency in underwriting and investment processes. By providing risk research on companies and infrastructure projects worldwide, we enable insurance providers to conduct ESG due diligence.”
Ismar Tôrres, CEO, Seguradora Líder DPVAT (Brazil): “Seguradora Líder, responsible for the DPVAT Insurance, is committed to the Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI), embedding them into its culture and activities. We support and work with initiatives that include best practices in environmental, social and governance principles. We are proud to be included in this relevant PSI, WWF and UNESCO initiative. Only by increasing the number of similar actions could we strengthen sustainable solutions in our sector.”
Jean-Paul Conoscente, CEO of SCOR Global P&C (France): “As a founding signatory of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance, an early adopter of the first-ever insurance industry statement to protect World Heritage Sites, and amidst mounting pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, SCOR welcomes the release of the first collaborative industry guide to better understand, prevent and reduce risks that threaten the outstanding universal value of World Heritage Sites”.
Shinji Tsuji, Group COO, Director, Deputy President & Representative Executive Officer, Sompo Holdings, Inc. (Japan): “The launch of the PSI-WWF-UNESCO insurance industry guide is a great opportunity as the first step by global insurers to protect World Heritage Sites. We hope these good practices will reach many stakeholders and promote various approaches to achieve a sustainable future.”
Patrick Raaflaub, Group Chief Risk Officer, Swiss Re (Switzerland): “We believe the new Global Insurance Industry Guide is a significant step forward in making the protection of World Heritage Sites a market standard. The guide confirms Swiss Re’s long-standing commitment, as well as our established policies and procedures to preserve protected areas.”
Jose Adalberto Ferrara, CEO, Tokio Marine Seguradora S.A. (Brazil): “Tokio Marine Seguradora S.A. in Brazil recognizes World Heritage Sites as drivers of economic, social and environmental sustainability, and the important role of the insurance industry in protecting World Heritage Sites. Our mission is to provide safety and security to people and companies, contributing to the progress of the society. Therefore, we adhere to the declaration developed by UN Environment’s PSI Initiative, WWF and UNESCO, and commit to taking actions proactively to protect World Heritages Sites.”
Marcio Serôa de Araujo Coriolano, President, Brazilian Insurance Confederation (CNseg): “As the association representing Brazilian insurance companies, we recognize the outstanding universal value of World Heritage Sites and endorse our associates’ commitment and efforts in understanding, preventing and reducing risks that threaten these places. Together with UNESCO, WWF and the PSI Initiative, we will work to promote the key role of the insurance industry in protecting the priceless and irreplaceable assets that make up our world heritage.”
Tim Grafton, CEO, Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ): “Insurance seeks to prevent loss and if it occurs to restore it. World Heritage Sites are unique treasures that once lost are gone forever. Today many sites are threatened. This guide is a valuable contribution to help insurers protect these treasures for generations to come.”
Michael Rellosa, Executive Director, Philippine Insurers & Reinsurers Association (PIRA): “At a time in our history where humankind is faced with numerous issues and those related to World Heritage Sites are relegated to the background, the importance of preserving such sites come to the forefront. The launch of this guide is timely and its necessity paramount especially for countries such as the Philippines where our own World Heritage Sites are imperilled by other interests.”
Reposted from ICE.gov
On Sunday, Oct. 20, CBS News' 60 MINUTES aired a story highlighting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Wilmington, Delaware, investigation that resulted in the recovery and return of three stolen 15th century Columbus Letters, describing his discoveries in the Americas. As a result of an HSI investigation, the letters were determined to have been stolen from three separate libraries in Europe – the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain; the Riccardiana Library in Florence, Italy and the Vatican Library in Vatican City. The effort to locate, recover and return the letters involved a multi-year, joint investigation conducted by HSI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware, and foreign law enforcement partners in Italy and Spain.
Since September 2011, HSI has been conducting an international cultural property investigation relating to several historically significant, printed letters authored by explorer Christopher Columbus during his return trip from the New World in 1493. The investigation revealed that several original editions of the Columbus Letter were stolen from several European libraries and replaced with forgeries without the knowledge of library officials or local law enforcement agencies. Since 2016, HSI special agents and prosecutors from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware have partnered to return three precious letters documenting Columbus’ journey back to their rightful home. In May 2016, the repatriation of the Riccardiana Columbus Letter completed in Rome, Italy. In June 2018, the Catalonia Columbus Letter was repatriated in Washington, DC and the Vatican Columbus Letter was repatriated in Vatican City.
Reposted from Modern Ghana
Some 40 female members of the armed forces of Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, as well as female peacekeepers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) came together in Beirut, Lebanon to discuss the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. The workshop, which took place on 1-3 October 2019, was the first UNESCO-organized event specifically focused on female military personnel. It aimed to increase women’s participation in heritage protection, which is a critical component for the overall success of several military and peacekeeping missions.
The opening ceremony was organized under the patronage and in the presence of Lebanon’s Minister of Culture, Dr Mohammad Daoud, with the participation of high-level government officials, including Ms Violette Safadi, Minister of State for the Economic Empowerment of Women and Youth of Lebanon.
“We are delighted to see female officers in the armed forces from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan being trained, just like their male counterparts, on protecting cultural property in their country,” stated Ms Violette Safadi in her opening remarks. Dr Mohammad Daoud also announced that the Lebanese Parliament approved in its last plenary session the law for the ratification of the Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, stating that “this is a positive step towards the safeguarding of cultural heritage.”
A workshop visit to Tyre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was included in the field exercise. Participants reviewed on-the-ground scenarios of securing and protecting a cultural site and artefacts. The training course provided a platform for both international and local experts and female officers to deliberate on the protection of cultural heritage in the course of military operations.
Building the capacity of women in uniform, whose numbers are increasing globally, and guaranteeing their participation in military operations will support armed forces to engage in constructive dialogue with all members of local communities in times of conflict. This can further inspire women and girls of affected communities to take an active role in peace and reconciliation processes, subsequently leading to the better protection of cultural heritage.
Ensuring that women and men can equally enjoy the right to access, participate in and contribute to cultural life is a guiding principle for UNESCO.
Reposted from Mental Floss
Each year, in America alone, millions of people visit art museums—bringing with them millions of opportunities to damage the masterpieces they’re there to see. Whether intentional or not, caused by humans, forces of nature, or simply the passage of time, there’s always the chance that history's greatest masterpieces can be lost or damaged when put on view for all the world to see. Here is just a taste of the many ways art museums around the globe protect their priceless treasures.
You won't see curators of Los Angeles's Getty Center moving artworks when fire gets close, as the Skirball Fire did in 2017 (and as the Getty fire is now). That's because the museum was built with fire prevention in mind: According to The New York Times, the buildings' reinforced-concrete walls are covered in fire-resistant travertine stone; crushed stone, which is also fire resistant, is on each roof. The plants closest to the buildings are both fire resistant and hold water; trees on the property are regularly pruned. An irrigation and sprinkler system, which draw from a million-gallon tank under the center, can also be turned on to soak the grounds if fire is anywhere close. “The safest place for the artwork to be is right here in the Getty Center,” Ron Hartwig, then-vice president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, told the Times in 2017.
Inside, the Getty Center is equipped with an air system that keeps smoke from entering the building, and well as folding walls that can close off areas of the museum if they happen to catch on fire. The building is also equipped with sprinklers, which are used only if there's no other option. (They're kept dry most of the time, to guard against leaks.)
When plans were announced for the multi-million dollar relocation and construction of New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art, courtesy of renowned architect Renzo Piano, mastery in design was to be expected. But then Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, and while in the midst of construction, Piano was compelled to innovate even further.
When the construction site was flooded with more than 5 million gallons of water, the building plans changed, adding a state-of-the-art flood wall to fend off future disasters and protect its works from potential water damage from flooding of the nearby Hudson River. Now, the museum boasts a fortification comprised of a 500-foot-long mobile wall and a 14-foot-tall by 27-foot-long flood door meant to withstand up to nearly 7000 pounds of impact, keeping the museum water-tight up to 16.5 feet (seven feet higher than before Sandy).
With climate change making intense storms more common on the East Coast, these precautions make sure the Whitney’s masterpieces—which include more than 18,000 works in their permanent collection alone—stay high and dry against the forces of Mother Nature.
In 1962, five murals by American master Mark Rothko were given to Harvard University as a gift from the artist himself. (Rothko refused to accept any payment, saying, “This is the first time I have been able to deliver commissioned work that I am satisfied with.”) The murals were to be hung in a dining hall, which underwent extensive preparation in order to fit Rothko’s specifications. New lighting was installed, the oak-paneled walls were covered in green material, and, in a retrospectively regrettable move, Rothko insisted that the public be allowed as much access to the art as possible.
Somewhat predictably for a college dining hall, it didn't take long for the paintings to fall into disrepair: The curtains in the sunny hall were rarely closed, so the paintings’ colors faded rapidly. They were scratched and dented by years of rearranging furniture. College students spilled food and drinks on the paintings, sometimes even tagging them with small bits of graffiti, leading university officials to put the murals into storage in 1979.
The damage would have been bad enough, but attempts to restore the paintings brought their own hurdles. Conventional restoration methods were a no-go due to Rothko’s trademark use of natural materials like eggs and animal glue mixed with pigment. Whereas conventional restoration would add layers of removable paint and varnish—removable so that they can be stripped and replaced with newer, better methods as they come along—any attempts to add paint to the Rothkos would be irreversible, as another one of the artist’s trademarks was to never use varnish.
And so, restoration efforts followed the lead of Raymond Lafontaine, whose study "Seeing Through a Yellow Varnish: A Compensating Illumination System" described the use of slide projectors to illuminate paint in such a way as to offset discoloration in old paintings. Using both an undamaged Rothko and some restored 1960s photographs, MIT Media Lab associate professor Ramesh Raskar created an algorithm that allowed him to find the perfect color match to be projected digitally onto the paintings, pixel by pixel, while simultaneously restoring the murals to their former glory yet leaving them untouched.
Glass plays a huge role in protecting pieces of art: Not only does it ward off finger smudges from prying hands, but it also can protect pieces from harmful UV rays, which can cause fading in paintings as well as on furniture, sculptures, or manuscripts. While you may think protective glass lives only directly in front of a piece of art, a museum’s first line of defense against UV rays is often in its windows, which are treated with a special UV-blocking coating—though many museums opt to avoid having windows near their art at all. “The only windows we have near exhibition areas are in the clerestory overlooking the lobby, and those windows are UV-filtered,” Amie Geremia of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville told Glass Magazine, adding, “You can see damage after a single day in the sun.”
Vibration sensors can detect even the lightest pressure from curious fingers. Once triggered, the sensor sends a message to a control room, alerting security where the damage is taking place, along with a picture of the art in danger. Such sensors are often placed in several areas around a piece and can be customized so that the alarm sounds after a single touch, or after several vibrations in a row. “This is particularly useful in a museum when a large number of people are around because frequent vibrations are coming from the floor or small children," Andy Moon, technical director of Advanced Perimeter Systems told a&s Magazine. "You do not want to set off an alarm when that happens."
Vibration sensors, also known as seismic sensors, are usually attached to a painting’s frame—unless the frame is worth more than the painting itself, as is the case more often than you’d think. In these cases, “What the museum does is to make a false wall by putting some wood in front of the normal wall," Moon explained. "The painting is hung on the wall. Then, around the edge, we put a sensor cable. If someone touches the painting, it signals an alarm.”
For gallery guests who are just itching for physical contact with art, some museums provide a separate outlet. For example, the Bowes Museum in England's Barnard Castle offers an interactive exhibit where guests are actually encouraged to touch various materials and pieces. This allows guests the hands-on experience they crave, and provides a lesson in art’s fragility—provided, of course, that they remember that lesson after stepping into the more prohibitive exhibits.
Sometimes interactive exhibits have the opposite of the intended effect: When the National Museum of Wales opened its Centre Court in 1993, it eschewed barriers entirely, intending to allow as much physical access to the art as possible. Alas, within just a few days, one of the largest pieces in the collection—Michael Andrews's The Cathedral, The Southern Faces/Uluru (Ayers Rock)—was so spotted with children’s fingerprints that it had to be completely sealed off from the public.
When Vincent van Gogh painted his famous Sunflowers series in 1888/1889, viewers were awed by the bright yellow flowers produced by the artist's use of the pigment lead chromate, also known as chrome yellow. However, it was soon widely discovered that chrome yellow darkens significantly under light exposure—to such an extent that artists soon stopped painting with that particular pigment altogether. Fast forward a century or so, and art museums are still working to restore van Gogh's Sunflowers paintings to their original vibrancy.
In general, the way a painting is lit can have a huge impact on the preservation of its colors. For example, UV lights are pretty much bad all-around for paintings. For years, museums have combated UV damage by putting filters over their regular incandescent bulbs so that the UV rays can’t reach paintings. In recent years, though, the push toward more energy-efficient LED lights has had a bonus benefit for the art it illuminates: LED lights give off hardly any UV rays at all, so the art is more protected from light damage. The only problem is that LED lights don’t light a painting as prettily as their incandescent predecessors, so the LEDs have to be specially engineered to give off the same type of light, just without the harmful UV rays. Basically, every single-color LED light comes with a layer of phosphors, or a collection of metals that absorb that color of light. So, by tinkering with the phosphors on LED lights, museum conservators are able to adjust the light’s tint to more closely resemble that of the old incandescent bulbs.
While LEDs greatly reduce the damage done to paintings, enough of any lighting can be harmful to older art, which is why more and more museums are pushing toward dimmer galleries—allowing you to take in the art in front of you, but not so much the museum-goer next to you.
Many museums keep an intricate catalog of inventory numbers that logs and identifies each piece in a collection, from its name, history, and location, all the way down to the thread count of its canvas. Not only does this aid in the organization of pieces, but it also helps track down art in the event of a burglary, according to Steven R. Keller, security consultant and former executive director of protection services at The Art Institute of Chicago. "In the event of a theft, you'll sometimes get 20 different calls from people claiming to have the piece and willing to return it for a price, “ Keller told security news site CSO. "In one case, we leaked the wrong numbers on purpose to sort out the phony extortionists from the real one. Finally, someone called and said, 'You've got the wrong serial number.' We knew we had our guy."
Once damage has been done to a piece of art, it can sometimes be difficult to raise the funds necessary for restoration. The Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria, found an unconventional solution to this problem when it created a collection exclusively for the display of damaged art. The collection, called "Hidden Treasures," debuted in early 2016 and provided a home for nearly 200 pieces of art that would have otherwise remained locked up in storage.
“When I took on my role [in October 2015], one of the first things I did was to visit the museum’s storage,” then-museum director (now artistic director) Hans-Peter Wipplinger told the AFP. "I discovered a number of works worthy of being exhibited, but that were too damaged.” The exhibition allowed visitors access to works like Robert Russ’s 1885 Mill with Evening Sky, a little worse for the wear with some tears in its canvas, though still of significant artistic and historical value. "Other museums often ask to borrow them, but they first have to be restored to survive the journey,” Wipplinger explained.
The cost to restore such pieces is often thousands of dollars, so the Leopold displayed its damaged art with the hope that some especially generous art lovers would want to help pay the cost to repair them, and would receive an identifying plaque next to the piece of art they helped to restore as a thank you for their generosity. But "Hidden Treasures" was more than a fundraising effort. "It’s also about showing the public all the work and technical know-how required to present a piece in mint condition," Wipplinger added.
“Thieves usually don’t slither past detectors during museum heists,” explains Museum Security: The Art of Alarms [PDF], dispelling the popular action movie myth. “They pay their six bucks, walk in as members of the public, stay behind after closing by hiding behind the draperies or under a bench, and smash the window to get out.”
Many art heists might be fairly low-tech, but that doesn’t mean the protection against them has to be. Ever absentmindedly gotten a little too close to a painting and heard a loud chirping noise go off? That was a motion detector beamed directly over a painting. Such detection systems are also beamed over entrances and exits—even sneaky ones like windows and air ducts—to alert security personnel to after-hours intruders.
But what about those aforementioned stragglers, who intentionally lag behind a group in the hopes of avoiding detection from sensors? That’s where saturation motion detection comes in. Rather than only watching spots in a room associated with ingress and egress, saturation motion detectors do exactly that: Saturate a room with motion detection. This helps detect any thief or vandal trying to sidestep “dead zones,” or areas not covered by traditional detection systems, allowing security to keep tabs on anyone who steps into an art exhibit at any given time.
In January 2014, a photo surfaced of children climbing on Donald Judd's “stacks” sculptures at London’s Tate Modern as their parents looked on. Not to be outdone, in August 2015, a young boy tripped and tore a hole through a 17th-century Paolo Porpora painting called Flowers on display at an art exhibition in Taiwan, estimated to be worth about $1.5 million. In the case of the former incident, the stealthily-captured photo was tweeted by another patron alongside the caption: “Holy crap. Horrible kids, horrible parents.”
“I was shocked," another passerby reported to the London Evening Standard. "I said to the parents I didn’t think their kids should be playing on a $10 million artwork. The woman turned around and told me I didn’t know anything about kids and said she was sorry if I ever had any."
Such incidents shed light onto what many museum patrons think of the presence of children at museums that may be well above their sophistication level. In a 2014 point-counterpoint with The Telegraph, critic Ivan Hewitt blamed a misinterpreted Victorian ideal as the culprit for rampant children in gallery spaces:
“Many people seriously hold the view that making children conform to the adult quiet of museums is a form of child abuse, which should be subverted at every turn ... The irony is that at the root of this solicitousness lies a very Victorian idea, which is that children must be initiated into the glories of high culture, and not kept away. The problem is that this good idea has become confused with a very bad one. This is the notion that high culture must be brought down to the kids’ level.”
“Many people seriously hold the view that making children conform to the adult quiet of museums is a form of child abuse, which should be subverted at every turn ... The irony is that at the root of this solicitousness lies a very Victorian idea, which is that children must be initiated into the glories of high culture, and not kept away. The problem is that this good idea has become confused with a very bad one. This is the notion that high culture must be brought down to the kids’ level.”
Dea Birkett, creative director of Kids in Museums, a London-based organization dedicated to making museums family-friendly places, countered that the condemnation of children in museums would be a condemnation of art in general—at least, the reaction that it’s meant to incite in humans, big and small. "It’s not really children that any of these finger-waggers want to ban. It's joy," Birkett said. "For it isn’t contempt (as Hewett claims) that early exposure to great art breeds, but passion. We should be thrilled when even young children respond so enthusiastically to a Rubens or a Richard Long. Isn’t this exactly what we want?”
Reposted from Security Management
On any given day, 2,000 people visit the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and its 65,000-piece collection of artworks that span the course of human history. The museum covers 658,000 square feet, including public and private spaces, manned by a few hundred employees and volunteers. The space regularly hosts special weekend programs that attract thousands of visitors, and its popularity is only growing. However, its surveillance system was no longer keeping up.
When Eric Drewry, CPP, joined the DIA as its new director of security in 2015, one of the museum’s top priorities was updating its video surveillance and security technology. “That was just a priority coming in the door,” Drewry says of the institute’s legacy analog camera system. “It definitely needed an upgrade.”
Like most security professionals, Drewry understands that security is often perceived as a cost rather than an investment that offers a potential return. So, when the security team started looking for cameras and a system, they settled on what they would call the “Cadillac Plan”: cameras that could protect every piece in every gallery, paired with analytics that would provide the museum with actionable insights. The DIA ultimately landed on Axis Communications IP cameras, specifically multi-sensor cameras and AXIS F44 Main Units.
“What it came down to was Axis seemed to have a solution for just about everything,” Drewry says. “Everything that everybody else had and then a couple extra models in case you needed a different solution.”
With more than 100 galleries needing upgraded surveillance, the security team knew it was looking at a long installation process. However, selecting Acuity-vct’s Object Protection System (now Art Sentry) meant the new video management system would work with both analog and IP cameras, providing a unified platform to use throughout the transition.
The facility’s age also presented a challenge; the original structure was built in the 1920s, and two additions were erected 50 years later. Axis’s cameras enabled a smoother retrofit in the historic property by requiring only one network cable for four cameras in a given space. Each four-camera unit can in turn cover a 39-foot field of view, meaning one network cable could effectively cover entire galleries.
“We saved a tremendous amount of money just on the backend of things, with wiring and getting all the infrastructure in place because of these different products that Axis had offered,” Drewry says.
After nine months of an aggressive installation schedule—working seven days a week, coordinating with gallery rotations where possible—the museum was completely retrofitted.
Communication and coordination with the DIA’s curatorial, conservation, and collection management staffs helped shape the finished surveillance system. “One of the things that we’re looking at is either highly trafficked areas or exceptionally vulnerable objects,” Drewry says. The other departments helped security understand why certain pieces were more vulnerable than others—such as the fragility of the materials or a piece’s placement on a mount that could be bumped into. Now video-verified alerts can help security personnel mitigate the risk of damage to those works.
The museum strives to be open and welcoming, encouraging visitors to have personal experiences with the artwork. “In order to do that, they have to get up close and personal with it,” Drewry says. By working closely with the curatorial and conservation departments, security can customize surveillance coverage for galleries and objects on display to detect when visitors get too close—without placing physical barriers between them and the art.
Any time a visitor gets too close to a piece or installation, violating its protection zone, the system is triggered, creating an event featuring camera footage from before, during, and after the incident. The data from such scenarios, which is logged internally, yields valuable insights.
One work that draws particular attention—and frequent alarm-triggering close examination—is Death on the Pale Horse, a painting by American artist Benjamin West. The new camera system enabled the DIA team to draw valuable insights about the painting’s appeal and how best to protect it. The system provides data on policy violation alarms and builds actionable data for curators and security to use, including an incident “heat map” that can lay over the museum floorplan to highlight where the violations might cluster.
The team first considered that the volume of alarms may have been due to positioning the cameras at a less-than-optimal angle.
Even after the camera views were rearranged to reduce nuisance and unnecessary alarms, DIA security found that Pale Horse still registered as an extreme hot spot within the gallery.
Drewry worked with the DIA’s internal interpretation staff and external interpreters from the American Alliance of Museums for insight into the reaction triggered by the work. Due to those new insights, additional protective measures were installed around the painting to mitigate risks to its conservation. “It has also served as this really, really fascinating discovery that we’ve been able to make because of how we’ve been using this data from these systems,” Drewry says. Internal conversations about potential causes of the work’s attraction and targeted efforts to reduce the volume of proximity alarms had not occurred until the new surveillance system was installed.
The data from the cameras added value throughout the museum. It allowed DIA security to demonstrate how visitors engage with art. Those new insights resulted in initiatives that help to more effectively utilize and focus resources—sometimes simply posting additional information about the artist or work next to a piece helps visitors interpret it more deeply without needing to get too close.
The cameras also uncovered a security gap: a failure to communicate expectations with visitors. Visitors were unaware about how close to the art was too close. The welcome process for visitors now reminds guests to maintain a distance of at least 18 inches from the art, on top of the museum’s no-touch policy.
But if someone forgets that initial welcome warning—such as guests who gesture too close and too frequently—the security team members work to curb the behavior without disturbing other patrons’ experiences. Security staff working in the museum’s command center who receive policy violation alerts are trained to recognize and identify guests who are too often too close to the artwork. A member of the museum’s security department will approach such guests, reminding them about the 18-inch buffer zone and making them a little more aware of security throughout the facility. However, for valuable pieces or works that are particularly vulnerable to inappropriate interaction—such as an African throne popular with Instagram adventurers wanting to reenact Game of Thrones scenes—intrusions are met with automatic and very audible alerts.
“That has been really helpful because obviously we can’t be everywhere all at once, and [the alarms] help the visitors understand that we still see what you’re doing. It keeps people a little more honest,” Drewry says.
Reposted from the Los Angeles Times
The raging Getty fire has licked the edges of the Getty Center campus and threatens to encroach on the tram arrival platform, but the art and archives are safe, the museum said.
As water-dropping helicopters buzzed above the center Monday, Lisa Lapin, the museum’s vice president of communications, said she was on site with Getty President James Cuno, Chief Operating Officer Steven A. Olsen and security and facilities personnel. They had not been asked to evacuate, Lapin said, and they didn’t expect that to happen.
The museum’s emergency plans do not call for evacuating art. When the Getty Center opened, the buildings and grounds had been designed as the safest place for the collection in the event of a disaster.
A 1-million-gallon reserve water tank is on site. At about 2 a.m., the museum began using that water to irrigate the property, Lapin said.
Brush is cleared regularly, and plants with the highest water content are planted closest to the buildings, Lapin said. She also noted the museum’s travertine and metal exterior.
The deleterious effects of air pollution on the art is the main concern, but the museum’s sophisticated air filtration system is doing its job just fine, the museum said. The system works something like a reverse air conditioner, forcing filtered air through the galleries while maintaining the necessary temperature and humidity levels. With the buildings are closed, no doors open to let in polluted air.
This Getty Center closed because of a raging wildfire in December 2017, but that blaze burned on the other side of the 405 Freeway. Although the flames came closer Monday, the museum said it was safe.
“We really are OK,” Lapin reiterated. “Our vistas will be a little bit different. It will look different to the north and the west.”
The biggest concern, Lapin said, was the museum’s neighbors.
“Some have lost their homes,” she said, “and that is tragic.”
Lapin said the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades will remain closed Tuesday to allow emergency responders the space they need.
“We are safe, the fire is largely knocked down, but there are still hot spots,” Lapin said in a follow-up email midafternoon Monday. “Fire crews are using Getty Center as a staging area, a rest area, and a logistics base to view the fire and make operations decisions.”
The Getty fire is a wind-driven brush fire that erupted about 1:30 a.m. along the 405. It spread south and west and quickly consumed more than 500 acres. About 10,000 structures have been placed under mandatory evacuation orders. The evacuation zone includes Mulholland Drive on the northern side, the 405 on the east, Sunset Boulevard on the south and Temescal Canyon Road on the west.
The Skirball Cultural Center, which sits a few miles north of the Getty Center, said it was not threatened by the fire but was closing until further notice because of poor air quality and road closures.
Reposted from Small Business Trends
A survey conducted by GetApp reports 43% of employees do not get regular data security training while 8% have never received any training at all. The report highlights the level of exposure businesses have towards cyberattacks such as ransomware.
This comes as cybersecurity remains one of the most challenging issues for small business owners. Small businesses bear 43% of the brunt of cyber-attacks, opening them up to huge liabilities. This includes business closure. Of those attacked, 60% will go out of business within six months.
Web-based attacks, social engineering and general malware are often the top three culprits of cyber-attacks among small businesses. As the techniques to exploit cybersecurity vulnerabilities continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, businesses need to bolster their security.
Among the areas where employees are routinely targeted include social engineering, the art of manipulating someone into divulging secret information. Through phishing attacks, hackers use social media and research to strike up a relationship with employees. They then exploit this relationship to gain their trust with the goal of eventually stealing the information they need. For example, getting a password might allow them to infiltrate a company’s cybersecurity architecture.
Very often unsuspecting employees are duped into providing scammers access to sensitive company data. Scammers typically investigate an individual or organization before carrying out attacks such as spear phishing or business email compromise (BEC). Phishing is the practice of sending e-mails appearing to come from a well-known organization asking recipients information such as credit card numbers, account numbers, or passwords.
However, only 27 % of companies provide social engineering awareness training for their employees according to the survey. And almost 75% of businesses are vulnerable, thus endangering customers’ records, employee data, intellectual property and more.
It goes without saying there is an urgent need for more robust cybersecurity.
Small businesses are as much of a cyberattack target as large enterprises. But investing in enterprise cybersecurity alone is not going to cut it. small businesses need to invest in regular training for their employees in order to fully address this threat. This will help in adding yet another layer of protection for the company’s sensitive data.
For this reason, it is important to assess the knowledge of your employees when it comes to cybersecurity. This is because more often than not, employees are the soft targets that scammers use to access your organization. With employees connected to the internet round the clock, businesses are more vulnerable than ever to attacks.
You can ensure your company and the people who work for you are up to date by regularly carrying out audits.
You probably conduct a number of audits of your business to make sure you are on the right track. But in today’s digital ecosystem, it should also include the audit of your current cybersecurity policies.
A strong audit goes a long way in assessing the vulnerability of your business to cyberattacks. The audit can assess password policies, employees’ knowledge of phishing techniques, and adherence to security policies, to name but a few of the issues it can address.
Once the audit highlights the gaps, companies can bolster their security by providing tailored courses to address security issues. Moreover, training materials and learning management system software are available that are easy to use for small businesses.
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