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  • September 11, 2018 3:13 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Founding Director, Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI, was honored as one of Security Magazine’s Most Influential People in Security this month.

    “In 1999, I recognized the need for a positive training source for security officers, supervisors and managers,” Layne says. “Together with my son and other leaders in the industry, we formed the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection. We continue to train candidates for certification at leading institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad, and are recognized as setting the standard for best practices in protecting cultural properties and public institutions.”

    Layne is the author of “Safeguarding Cultural Properties,” “The Cultural Property Protection Manual” and co-author of “Suggested Guidelines in Museum Security.” He has authored national certification programs for security officers, supervisors, managers and instructors, and he presents seminars, workshops and keynotes for state, regional and national associations.

    He has served as protection adviser to more than 500 institutions, crime prevention coordinator for several law enforcement agencies, and special instructor for the Colorado Law Enforcement Training Academy, among others.

    Layne is a graduate of Missouri Military Academy, the U.S. Army Infantry Officer Candidate School, Career Officer Military Police Program, and the FBI Police Management Program.

    For future security and law enforcement professionals, Layne says: “There is considerable competition for leading roles in both security and law enforcement management. It is strongly recommended for those wishing to advance in this field to gain a positive combination of field experience and academic achievement. Many excellent opportunities are lost in the interview process. Learn about the positive traits interviewers look for, and be prepared to make a positive impression. This includes what you wear, your personal hygiene and your ability to directly answer questions.” 

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  • September 11, 2018 2:48 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Post

    Around midday on April 15, 1958, New York’s Museum of Modern Art erupted in flames. The three-alarm fire spread rapidly, threatening the world’s preeminent collection of 20th-century paintings and leaving nearly 200 people stranded on the building’s roof.

    In the end, firefighters controlled the blaze and — thanks to heroic efforts by museum staff — the collection was largely unscathed. Staffers carried a group of major Georges Seurat paintings, including his masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” on a rare loan from the Art Institute of Chicago, to safety in an adjacent building. Nonetheless, one of Claude Monet’s largest “Water Lilies” paintings was destroyed and several other works severely damaged.

    In the days since a horrific fire engulfed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the world has reacted with outrage and horror at the gutting of the largest treasure house of natural history in Latin America. Brazilians have been quick to blame the devastation on government mismanagement, drastic budget cuts and a general neglect of the country’s cultural heritage.

    Yet as the 1958 MoMA conflagration reminds us, fires and other natural hazards have long posed as much a threat to leading museums in the United States and Europe as they have to their less wealthy counterparts in other parts of the world. In the United States, the long history of fires goes back to the early years of museum-building — and continues to the present day.

    In 1865, the American Museum — a popular New York City collection of historic artifacts, taxidermied animals and live animals owned by showman P.T. Barnum — caught fire and burned down so quickly that two whales were boiled alive in their tanks. In June, a fire destroyed the Aberdeen Museum of History in Aberdeen, Wash., which contained thousands of local artifacts.

    Already in the early 20th century, there was widespread demand for “fireproof” museum buildings, but sprinkler systems can pose risks of their own. In the MoMA fire, some of the damage was caused by water from the building’s own firefighting standpipes. (Paradoxically, the MoMA fire was caused by workers trying to install a better air-conditioning system, another step aimed at protecting the art.)

    Today there is also the growing menace of climate change. In recent years, art capitals ranging from Miami to Los Angeles have faced hurricanes, floods and wildfires, with art museums often perilously close to the front lines.

    Consider the Netherlands. The country has long been known for state-of-the-art sea barriers and flood-fighting expertise. But in Rotterdam, where 90 percent of the city is below sea level, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which houses a world-renowned collection of Old Masters and modern European art, has faced five floods in the past 14 years that have threatened the collection.

    During a flood in 2013, torrential rain short-circuited the water pumps in the Boijmans’s art storage area and water began streaming in. Sjarel Ex, the museum’s director, faced a terrible decision: Emergency workers could divert the water away from the rooms with the paintings. But this would likely sacrifice the museum’s collection of historic books.

    At the last minute, museum staff were able to use enormous extension cords to reconnect the pumps and save the collection. But the near-calamity was galvanizing. Now, the museum is building a $70 million-plus , aboveground art “depot” by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV to store 145,000 museum works in a totally floodproof environment. (Shaped like a giant reflective sugar bowl, it will be open to the public.)

    For the most deep-pocketed museums, special measures can help stave off the worst threats. The Getty Center in Los Angeles sits on a hilltop in an area of frequent earthquakes and wildfires. But with an endowment of nearly $7 billion, it has been able to invest extensively in protective technologies. Its billion-dollar campus features thick walls of fire-resistant travertine stone, a million-gallon water tank and a system of irrigation pipes that can soak the perimeter if needed. It has also developed display cases that isolate artworks from seismic activity.

    Today the Getty is considered one of the safer places for art in Los Angeles. When a devastating fire seared the surrounding hillsides last winter, firefighters used the Getty as a base for monitoring the area.

    Other museums are starting to take note. Completed in 2015, the new, $422 million Whitney Museum of American Art, which is close to the Hudson River, has been called one of the most flood-proof buildings in New York.

    Most museum buildings, however, predate recent innovations, and, in the face of growing operating expenses and shrinking budgets, few are prepared to allocate scarce resources for disaster preparation. As J. Andrew Wilson, a museum adviser and former head of the Smithsonian’s fire protection program, has observed, “There exists a cavalier attitude in this country that ‘fire won’t happen to me.’ ”

    As we witness the Brazil tragedy, it may be all too easy to conclude that this is a poor-country problem. It’s not. It is a warning for all of us.

    Until we begin to address the critical man-made and environmental threats to our own national treasures, we, too, are in danger of watching hundreds of years of art and history go up in smoke.

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  • September 11, 2018 2:25 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Smithsonian.com

    It’s been just under a week since an inferno blazed through Brazil’s 200-year-old National Museum, razing the historic institution and reducing the majority of its collection to ashes. Researchers are still awaiting permission to enter the building’s smoldering remains to assess the extent of the damage, but the Associated Press’ Marcelo Silva de Sousa and Mauricio Savarese report that firefighters have begun the arduous task of sifting through the rubble and identifying fragments of salvageable artifacts. While the cause of the fire and exact fate of the museum’s more than 20 million artifacts—including Luiza, the oldest human fossil in the Americas, and the reconstructed skeleton of a Maxakalisaurus topai dinosaur—remain unclear, here’s what we’ve learned in the wake of the unprecedented loss.

    Shortly after the blaze broke out around 7:30 p.m. on September 2, a group of museum staff, technicians and students entered the burning building and rescued a small selection of items. Zoologist Paulo Buckup told BBC Brasil’s Julia Carneiro that he managed to escape with “a few thousand” mollusk specimens, including 80 percent of the museum’s holotypes, or original examples of given species. As Buckup explained to Globo News, the team “decided to select the material of greatest scientific and irreplaceable value.”

    The museum’s prized Bendegó meteorite, a 5.8-ton space rock discovered in the Brazilian state of Bahia in 1784, survived the flames largely unscathed, Hanneke Weitering reports for Space.com. Video footage posted on Twitter by local station Rádio BandNews FM shows that a second, smaller meteorite also survived the fire.

    The Atlantic’s Ed Yong reports that the museum’s herbarium, main library and portions of its vertebrate collection were kept in a separate building and therefore not affected by the fire. A series of centuries-old Torah scrolls believed to be some of the world’s oldest Judaic documents were similarly moved to a separate location prior to the fire per Pregaman and de Sousa of the AP.

    Federal University of Espírito Santo paleontologist Taissa Rodrigues tells National Geographic’s Michael Greshko that some of the metal cabinets housing fossils may have survived, although it’s unclear whether the artifacts inside could have withstood the fire. According to the AP, firefighters excavating the scene have found various bone fragments, triggering hopes that the 11,500-year-old skull of an early hominin named Luiza may still be recovered. All materials collected from the scene will be examined by federal law enforcement, who are working to determine the cause of the fire, before being sent on to experts for identification.

    Preliminary reports list the institution’s entomology and arachnology collections, roughly 700 Egyptian artifacts and a Royal Hawaiian feather cloak gifted to emperor Dom Pedro I in 1824 amongst the items feared lost. Artnet News’ Henri Neuendorf has a more comprehensive list of the museum’s prized treasures, most of which were likely damaged or completely destroyed.

    According to Brazilian culture minister Sérgio Leitão, an electrical short circuit or a paper hot-air balloon that landed on the museum’s roof was the likely cause of the fire. The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts, Dom Phillips and Sam Jones report, however, that the underlying factors at play were severe budget cuts and outdated fire prevention systems.

    National Geographic’s Greshko notes that the National Museum hasn’t received its full annual budget of $128,000 since 2014. This year, it received just $13,000. In late 2017, curators were so strapped for cash they had to crowdfund repairs of a popular exhibition hall that had been infested with termites.

    Museum vice director Luiz Fernando Dias Duarte told Brazilian television that staff members knew the building was in critical condition. Before leaving at the end of each day, he unplugged all of the items in his office to minimize fire risk. Duarte further argued that even a quarter of the money budgeted for a single 2014 World Cup stadium (the Foundation for Economic Education’s David Youngberg reports that Rio spent $15 billion on the Cup and $13.1 billion on the 2016 Olympics) “would have been enough to make this museum safe and resplendent.”

    The day after the fire, protestors gathered outside of the museum’s gates, demanding that authorities reveal the extent of the damage and pledge to rebuild. According to the AP’s Peter Prengaman and Sarah DiLorenzo, when the protestors attempted to see the damage, police held them back using pepper spray, tear gas and batons.

    Soon after the fire, a group of students at UNIRIO, the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, put out a global request for photographs and video clips taken at the museum. Atlas Obscura’s Sarah Laskow reports that the students have already received thousands of contributions, which they hope to eventually compile into a “virtual museum or a memory space of some sort.” As Laskow notes, these images “preserve, at least in some form, what remains of the history the museum was meant to protect.” Relevant photos or videos should be emailed to thg.museo@gmail.com.

    On Tuesday, Wikipedia posted a similar Twitter announcement calling for users to upload their personal snapshots of the museum to Wikimedia Commons, its open access repository of images.

    Other efforts are forthcoming. According to Forbes’ Kristina Killgrove, Thomas Flynn, cultural heritage lead at 3D modeling website Sketchfab, has posted 25 virtual renderings of museum artifacts to his profile page. All models are available to the public.

    Jorge Lopes dos Santos, a 3D modeling expert at the museum, tells Killgrove that prior to the fire, the digital modeling team successfully completed “hundreds of scans of several important artifacts of the collection, including fossils, Egyptian mummies, the Luzia skull and others, and Greek and Roman artifacts.” As recovery efforts move forward, he says that the team will “discuss how the files will be used.”

    The Rio fire has brought much-needed attention to the risks faced by cultural institutions across the globe. In addition to receiving increasingly scarce financial support, museums are more susceptible to natural hazards than one might think.

    As Hugh Eakin notes for the Washington Post, New York’s Museum of Modern Art burst into flames back in April 1958, destroying one of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings but leaving most of the collection unscathed. In more recent examples, Rotterdam’s world-class Old Masters and modern European art gallery, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, experienced five floods over the past 14 years and is currently constructing an estimated $70 million flood-proof storage facility. In 2016, an inferno gutted India’s National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi, and the year before that, another Brazilian institution, the Museum of the Portuguese Language in Sao Paulo, suffered a similar fate.

    Some museums are readily attuned to these dangers: Los Angeles’ Getty Center and New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art are both equipped with lavish protective systems. But most institutions can’t afford such expensive tools. Brazil’s National Museum, for example, had no working sprinkler system, and the two hydrants closest to the building malfunctioned when firefighters arrived at the scene.

    Popular Science’s Eleanor Cummins points out that natural disasters aren’t the only threat to museums: “Museum science is a race against time,” she writes, “and budget cuts, staff reductions, and declining visitation in countries around the world, the United States included, aren’t making anyone’s job any easier.”

    In the immediate aftermath of the fire, government officials pledged $2.4 million for the extensive rebuilding process that lies ahead. Museum director Alexander Kellner tells Scientific American’s Richard Conniff that initial funds will go toward stabilizing what remains of the building and recovering all that “can be recovered.” Another $1.2 million may be allocated for making the structure “habitable,” and officials are discussing the “possibility for next year” of granting an additional $19.2 million for the actual rebuilding of the museum.

    “What we mostly need is a strong commitment from the Brazil government, or even private enterprise, to provide the means for scientists to be restored to minimal working conditions,” Buckup says. “We have lost lots of history. What we cannot afford to lose is the future of science in this institution.”

    On Wednesday, the directors of 12 of the world’s most prominent natural history museums released a statement of solidarity highlighting the importance of such institutions and promising to support Brazilian colleagues in the coming “weeks, months and years.” Kirk Johnson, head of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who was one of the signatories, further stated that curators were working “on a larger Smithsonian effort as well.”

    Much of the chaos wrought by the inferno is irreversible. Researchers whose life’s work drew on specimens held within the museum now find themselves “lost,” as entomologist Marcus Guidoti tells National Geographic’s Greshko. Funds and support offered by Brazil’s government and outside institutions may help to soften the blow, but the fact remains that a priceless repository of Latin American cultural heritage has vanished overnight.

    Still, Brazilians remain cautiously optimistic about the arduous journey that lies ahead. Curator Débora Pires notes that the museum still has its team of dedicated researchers, adding, “The brains did not burn. We are working with a positive agenda.” Anthropologist Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima tells NPR’s Ari Shapiro that the loss of his 38 years of research on indigenous cultures is “very, very small” compared to what Brazilians have lost as a country and intellectual community.

    It would be easy to yield to depression, Souza Lima says, but he and his colleagues plan on fighting for their country’s future instead.

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  • September 11, 2018 2:21 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ZDNet

    Threat actors from Iran have been targeting universities and educational institutions across 14 countries in a bid to steal intellectual property.

    The Secureworks Counter Threat Unit (CTU) said on Friday that the campaign is likely the work of who they call Cobalt Dickens, an Iranian advanced persistent threat (APT) group.

    The researchers have connected Cobalt Dickens to the Iranian government and in March nine apparent members of the group were indicted for conducting a series of attacks on universities and companies on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

    The Mabna Institute, working as part of Cobalt Dickens, allegedly stole information from 76 universities across 21 countries, as well as 47 US and foreign private sector companies, including the US Department of Labor and the United Nations.

    In the latest wave of attacks, a total of 76 universities in 14 countries have been targeted including institutions in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, China, and Switzerland.

    After discovering a spoof website which masqueraded as one of the target universities, CTU uncovered a wider campaign designed to steal credentials from academic staff.

    In total, 16 domains have been used by the threat actors to host over 300 spoofed websites, including university login pages and online libraries.

    Targets are sent links to the fraudulent domains through phishing emails. If victims fall for the messages and enter their credentials into the spoofed pages, they are then sent onwards to the real service while this information is saved by the cyberattackers to gain access to legitimate systems.

    "Numerous spoofed domains referenced the targeted universities' online library systems, indicating the threat actors' intent to gain access to these resources," CTU says.

    The majority of the domains were registered between May and August 2018. The campaign appears to be ongoing, as the latest domain registration took place on August 19.

    Universities are a constant target for cyberattackers due to heavy involvement in academia and research projects. Intellectual property can be extremely valuable, especially when research is involved in areas such as technology and defense.

    The research team has contacted global partners to warn them of the latest phishing scheme.

    "This widespread spoofing of login pages to steal credentials reinforces the need for organizations to incorporate multi-factor authentication using secure protocols and implement complex password requirements on publicly accessible systems," the researchers said. 

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  • September 11, 2018 2:11 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from PennLive

    Harrisburg artist Sean Matthews worked for nearly two years to design and create his exhibit titled, "Recycled Play," which features children's playthings transformed into conceptual art.

    His main piece, called "Fair and Square," featured a life-sized swing set and required 60 hours of welding alone, to suspend two chains in mid-air simulating the scales of justice. The piece inspired by his own four daughters was insured for $5,000.

    But ten minutes into the grand opening of the exhibit Aug. 17 at the Susquehanna Art Museum, a mother and daughter dismantled the piece in mere seconds.

    The women walked under the swing set, grabbed the swings, and pulled them down, ruining the installation.

    "I looked away for a moment and then, boom, it's down," said Alice Anne Schwab, the museum director. "The swings were swinging...We were just devastated. The visitors mistakenly assumed they were supposed to play on the swings that were suspended."

    Schwab said she told the women they could not touch the art, but the women then strolled to the back of the museum, where they picked up an "hourglass" sand clock, which was part of a different sculpture, even though that exhibit also had a "no-touch" label on the wall.

    Although museum officials posted labels and printed an informative guide that explained the meaning behind the exhibit, the women apparently didn't see the signs. And it's clear from video surveillance that the women didn't pick up the available guides.

    The women reportedly told Schwab that they believed they were supposed to touch everything.

    At least one national expert said he could see where the exhibit could be confusing to visitors. A combination of factors culminated in this accident, said Wayne LaBar, the executive director at Powerhouse Science Center in Durango, Colorado, who has 30 years of experience in exhibition design and development. He watched a 15-minute video that showed the women entering the museum, touching the sculptures, then leaving.

    "The artist has used items in his work that are very suggestive of interaction in normal, everyday use," LaBar said. "So they're semi-enticing to go up and use. I'm not surprised this happened."

    In addition, LaBar said, some of the pieces did encourage touching, including two small vending machines that gave unique wood and ceramic "prizes," in exchange for four quarters.

    Overall, LaBar said, the exhibit was set up in the museum space in a way that seemed to encourage physical engagement.

    "That message was being somewhat sent to visitors," he said. "That's some of the power of the art as well. But it's a double-edged sword."

    To discourage touching, the museum should have used barriers or other undeniable signals, because "there is documented evidence that people don't read signs. Depending on signs would not be the thing to do," he said. "I didn't see any physical things that messaged to me that things are hands-off. If you see enough velvet ropes, you get the idea that you're not allowed in there."

    There was one set of ropes restricting access to another of Matthew's pieces staged in the former bank vault at the museum. In at least two instances, someone climbed over the rope and rearranged items that were carefully arranged to create the "art," Matthews said.

    Part of the problem with the mishaps were staffing levels, according to Matthews and Schwab. If someone from the museum had been paying more attention to the women at the swing set, they could have been stopped before the installation was ruined, Matthews said.

    Scwhab noted the women arrived shortly after the exhibit opened at 5 p.m. for a Third in the Burg free event at the museum. The museum typically doesn't get busy until later, Schwab said, so two volunteers who normally would have been at the front of the museum to greet guests had not yet arrived.

    "Had it been 15 minutes later, we would have been more proactive," she said. "It was a fluke moment where we didn't have anyone standing at the door."

    Schwab was so stunned at the damage, because nothing like it had occurred at the museum before, she didn't even get the names of the women for possible restitution. They abruptly left after being scolded a second time.

    After Matthews posted the video on his Facebook page, however, a woman reached out to him and said it was her and her daughter. She asked him to take the video down and said it was an accident.

    PennLive could not reach the woman for comment or to confirm the age of her daughter, who appeared to be in her late teens or early 20s.

    The installation could not be repaired back to its original state. When Matthews tried to reset the chains, one set snapped in half and the other set collapsed in sections back into individual chain links instead of the taut strands.

    Matthews said he had to stand by his sculpture for the next three hours explaining to other guests who had come out to see his show how the installation was supposed to look.

    Since the exhibit was still scheduled for display through Nov. 4, Matthews quickly repurposed the installation into a memorial, complete with a steel fence gate, a photo of the original sculpture, and an array of tiny stuffed animals.

    Matthews is now waiting to hear whether the museum's insurance company will reimburse him for his partial loss of the original sculpture. Schwab said the insurance company was still investigating, as the situation "is a tricky matter ... they could look at this like it was just sets of chains purchased from Lowe's that were soldered or a piece of art that can't be put back together."

    Schwab said better communication between her and Matthews prior to the exhibit opening could have helped. As it happened, she and the artist were trying to balance protecting the exhibit with public access to the installations and the artist's vision.

    Matthews said he wanted people to be able to walk under the swing set, but "never in my wildest dreams did I think that two people would get on either side of it and yank down the swings simultaneously."

    Even though his vending machine installations were interactive, Matthews said, the rest of the exhibit was not.

    "If you had a station where people could paint a brush stroke on a canvas, that wouldn't mean they could walk through the rest of the museum painting on every single painting," he said.

    Museum visitors should treat all items in a museum as if they are owned by someone else, because they are, LaBar said.

    "How would you like it if a stranger was going into your house? How would you like them to react to your stuff? Would you want them to sit on everything and touch everything and start the toaster?" he said. "Instead, look for permission to do that."

    The incident in Harrisburg was the latest in a series of art mishaps at museums, convention centers and national monuments across the world.

    • A family in Kansas got a bill for $132,000 in June after their 5-year-old son "hugged" a statue at a community center that collapsed onto him and broke. The family's insurance company paid the city for the damage.
    • Earlier this year, a visitor trying to snap a selfie at a Washington museum fell into a patch of glass pumpkin sculptures, breaking one of them.
    • Last year, an 800-year-old stone coffin in Britain was damaged after relatives put a child into it for a photo. When the child got out of the coffin, a piece of stone broke off. The family left without reporting the damage, according to a report in the New York Times.
    • Two children in Shanghai last year touched an angel statue at a glass museum while their parents recorded video of the interaction. One child then pulled the sculpture away from the wall, breaking it.
    • A man fiddling with a rare sculptural clock mounted on the wall at the National Watch and Clock Museum in Lancaster caused it to fall to the floor in 2016, where pieces broke off. 

    Increasingly, people have taken to desecrating art and national monuments due to a "degradation" in the idea that things are "hands-off," LaBar said.

    "Everything seems more interactive in our lives and we're more likely to involve ourselves in everything and taking selfies and that whole side of the equation," he said. "It's just a change in the culture."

    A change that museum directors should take close note of, he said.

    "In general," he said, "museums probably need to be more conscious of sending consistent messages to visitors."

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  • September 11, 2018 2:05 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Post

    Most people try to stay far away from hissing cockroaches, desert hairy scorpions, and venomous, six-eyed sand spiders. Not the team of thieves that hit the Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion over four days in late August.

    They made off with those critters and nearly 7,000 other insects, spiders and lizards — more than 80 percent of the institution’s collection.

    John Cambridge, the facility’s owner and chief executive, said he and his colleagues first noticed that the animals were missing from their enclosures. Then they discovered that a backroom used for storing scores of off-display animals contained empty shelves. At that point, Cambridge and his employees checked security camera footage.

    “And then [we] just put our head in our hands for the next 12 hours as we put the pieces together,” he said.

    In video from Aug. 22, five uniformed employees can be seen milling about the firelegged tarantula exhibit. One man, a museum director, opens the tank, scoops the spider into a small container, and walks away. Less than a minute later, a group of visitors enters the frame, and the remaining four staffers return to work.

    Other security cameras captured the employees loading some boxes into their personal vehicles and removing others via a fire escape. Philadelphia police have not named any suspects or filed charges, but Cambridge said the footage left little doubt that the heist was an inside job.

    “Movement of creatures throughout the facility is quite common,” Cambridge said. “We’re always taking things for education programs, doing maintenance, cage exchanges, and so they just walked straight out the front door with them.”

    But why? Who would want 7,000 very creepy crawlies?

    Plenty of people, it turns out. Cambridge said the exotic pet industry is “absolutely bursting with buyers right now” — and not just for furry foxes or lemurs, but for insects, too. Some of the stolen animals are known to fetch a pretty penny.

    A healthy adult Gooty sapphire tarantula can cost more than $350, while Mexican fireleg tarantulas go for $250. Rhinoceros cockroaches are worth $500 per mating pair. According to a police report, the entire theft is estimated to be worth between $30,000 and $50,000.

    “This is the largest living insect heist we’ve been able to find,” Cambridge said.

    Karen Verderame, who has spent more than two decades caring for live arthropods at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, said the theft of a living collection is nearly unheard of.

    Zoos, museums, researchers and private collectors must possess permits for many of the pilfered species, and few want to risk losing their permits by getting involved in trafficking. But the fact that insects and arachnids are generally easy to transport and care for is part of what makes illicit trade in these animals so difficult to curb. These species can easily be sent in the mail, Verderame said.

    “If you’re trying to ship a monkey, that’s a whole other story, right? But an insect, you can put it in a box with insulation and claim that it’s something else,” said Verderame. “Unless they have reason to open up that parcel, for all they know it’s what you say it is. It’s that easy.”

    Sales of regulated and banned insects take place online as well as at legal trade shows, Verderame said.

    Such creatures require permits for a reason. Some, such as hissing cockroaches, are restricted because they could establish breeding populations if released in hospitable environments, such as Florida. Others, including many tarantula species, are restricted because they’re becoming rare in their home ranges. Unfortunately, scarcity can also drive demand.

    “I think that’s sometimes some of the lure for them. They’re a unique specimen, and they are fascinating,” Verderame said. “A lot of people have never gotten to see one alive.”

    The exotic insect industry is particularly lucrative in Asia, where scarab beetles are traded like show dogs, she said — some for their beauty, others for their ability to fight.

    “The males have horns they use to wrestle other males for a mate,” she said. The insects can even be encouraged to square off by the introduction of a little bit of a female’s pheromone into the ring.

    The FBI joined the investigation in Philadelphia over the weekend. This may be because one of the former employees — all have since been fired — suspected of taking part in the theft lives in New Jersey, Cambridge said; if animals were moved across state lines, federal charges might also apply.

    The theft, meanwhile, has forced the insectarium to shut down two of its three floors, leaving the butterfly pavilion as the only open exhibit. Police recovered the fire-legged tarantula during a search of one former employee’s house, but most of the stolen animals are still unaccounted for.

    Cambridge said he almost hopes some have been sold, because he doubts their captors would be able to adequately care for all of them for this long.

    “If they haven’t sold, they’ve probably died,” he said.

    While part of the building is closed, the team is acquiring thousands of new insects, rebuilding exhibits and planning to host a grand reopening in early November.

    It will celebrate hard-to-love animals that are among the most abundant, and resilient, life-forms on the planet. What better, Cambridge said, to inspire the next incarnation of the museum?

    “Humanity has managed to name roughly 1.9 million organisms in the world. And of that number 1.1 million are insects,” Cambridge said. “We plan to come back even stronger.”

    See Original Post

  • September 11, 2018 2:01 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Asian Age

    Two men involved in the sensational Nizam museum theft were caught by the Hyderabad police on Monday night and the stolen artifacts -- a gold tiffin box inlaid with diamonds, a cup studded with rubies, diamonds and emeralds, a saucer and a spoon, belonging to the seventh Nizam, were recovered from them.

    The two arrested were identified as Mohd Ghouse Pasha alias Khooni Ghouse, 23, a centring worker in Rajendranagar and Mohd Mubeen, 24, a welding worker also from Rajendranagar, police said.

    According to the Police Commissioner of Hyderabad, Anjani Kumar, the duo recced the place 45 days prior to the date of offence so that they won't get recorded in the CCTVs installed inside the premises as its memory is set to erase itself every 30 days.

    The two were childhood friends and distant relatives. They were also habitual property offenders.

    "They slipped in via the ventilator that they have marked 4 to 5 days before the offence. The whole plan was the brainchild of Mubeen, who went inside the museum about 45 days before as a visitor and noticed the poor security. He talked Ghouse into his plan and the duo hatched an elaborate, nearly perfect plan to steal the priceless artifacts" said the official, adding that they tied 30 knots on the 10 meter rope to get in and out with ease.

    While Mubeen held the rope back, Ghouse slipped in, broke the lock of the wardrobe and got out with the Nizam's gifts.

    The only clues police had were the marks made around the ventilator by the men before the offence.

    They immediately changed their clothes and deliberately roamed in the vicinity to avert the cops, as a criminal would escape the place as early as possible.

    "They took onto the highway road on Muthangi towards Zaheerabad and slyly came back via a service road, to create an alibi in the CCTVs on highway that they left the city. They then went to Mumbai via bus with the stolen golden spoon as a sample to strike a deal in the international markets through their contacts there. When they could not get a good offer, they came back to the city and waited for an offer," added Kumar.

    According to a report in NDTV, the three-tier tiffin box worth several crores may not have been used by the Nizam, but one of the thieves used it every day to have food, the Hyderabad police said.

    Another interesting thing in the case, as confessed by the men, was that they had planned to decamp with a holy book in the museum as well, along with the actual stolen lot.

    "While they were at the museum at the time of offence and were about to take the holy book, they suddenly heard the evening prayer in the nearby mosque and feared the act of taking the book. They left only with the Tiffin box, cup saucer and spoon" said the official.

    Based on a tip-off following Mubeen's missing report, the police cracked the case after rounding up the usual suspects and recovered the stolen lot.

    See Original Post

  • September 11, 2018 1:53 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Washington Post

    The search for the next director of the National Gallery of Art has revealed deep divisions within the federally funded institution, a palace of high art that is dogged by old-fashioned ideas about museum operations and staff claims of widespread mismanagement.

    The leader chosen to succeed retiring Director Earl “Rusty” Powell III could signal a new chapter for one of the country’s premier art institutions. Established by Congress from a gift from Andrew W. Mellon, the National Gallery of Art has a patriotic heart that chooses consistency over flash and scholarship over blockbusters. With its federal charter — and sizable federal subsidy — the gallery is a Brooks Brothers suit in an Alexander McQueen world.

    But with Powell’s 26-year tenure coming to an end, the museum has the opportunity to revitalize its programs and modernize its operation, according to interviews with 22 current and former employees and industry experts. The selection of its next leader — expected to be made next month — could determine whether it continues to hew to the past or emerges at the forefront of a quickly evolving museum industry.

    “The National Gallery could be bigger in the sense of its national profile. I think of the era of [former director] J. Carter Brown — there was a certain amount of magic to some of the things they did,” said Kym Rice, assistant director for academic affairs at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University. “It does hold a certain place, but it could be much more.”

    A new leader can revitalize an institution, said Rice, who pointed to Melissa Chiu as an example. Since Chiu was appointed director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2014, the Smithsonian museum has increased its fundraising and presented highly acclaimed exhibitions that have attracted a younger audience.

    “A lot of people thought she was a risky choice, but look at what she’s done to raise their profile. She’s brought in good people, put on great exhibitions,” Rice said.

    The gallery’s next leader faces significant challenges. The museum’s digital strategy is undeveloped and trails its peer institutions. Poor management across multiple departments has caused high turnover and low staff morale, resulting in missed deadlines and budgets that waste taxpayer dollars, according to staff. Long-standing problems of sexual harassment, retaliation and favoritism persist because senior executives and personnel officers ignore or cover up complaints, according to seven current and former employees, most of whom requested anonymity because of fear of reprisal.

    The National Gallery, with its two buildings and sculpture garden on the northeast corner of the Mall, houses a collection of 150,000 works of mostly American and European art. Tourists come for its renowned permanent galleries with works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Matisse and Picasso, while smaller temporary exhibits highlight individual artists or themes, such as the current exhibition on marine paintings from the Dutch Golden Age and the recently closed look at Cezanne’s portraits. Its high-wire approach to balancing old masters with fresh faces comes into focus next month, when it opens three exhibitions: One spotlights contemporary British artist Rachel Whiteread, another focuses on 19th-century French painter Camille Corot’s portraits of women, and the last showcases the recent acquisitions acquisition of four large-scale photographs and a video by American photographer Dawoud Bey.

    The National Gallery’s conventional approach stems from its unusual structure as a quasi-federal organization. Chartered by Congress and federally owned, the gallery is a nonprofit corporation that receives about 75 percent of its annual $190 million budget from taxpayers. Most of its 1,100 employees are federal workers and federal funds allow its 5 million annual visitors to enter free.

    The pending announcement has many on the staff on edge. Officials with Phillips Oppenheim, the New York firm hired to conduct the job search, held large meetings with staff in April, at the start of the process, but the search is highly secretive and the focus of much speculation. Among the candidates rumored to be in contention are Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis in The Hague; Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth; Timothy Rub, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and C.D. Dickerson III, the National Gallery's curator of sculpture and decorative arts. Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is another name that's mentioned, perhaps because he and Powell both graduated from Williams College and he now has the job Powell held before coming to the National Gallery. Rub, Lee and Govan did not respond to messages, while Gordenker and Dickerson declined to comment.

    Sharon Percy Rockefeller and Frederick W. Beinecke, two members of the gallery’s nine-member board, declined to comment through a spokeswoman. (The board has five general trustees serving staggered 10-year terms and four ex officio members: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution David J. Skorton.)

    Dickerson is considered by many employees to be the front-runner, thanks to support from Powell and his senior team, and that has sparked pushback among some senior-level staff. These employees are pushing for someone with executive experience, something the 42-year-old Dickerson lacks. Dickerson was a curator at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth before Powell brought him to Washington in 2015. In department meetings and small groups, employees have discussed how to articulate to the search firm their wish for an agent of change, especially given the museum’s history of long-tenured leaders. Dickerson is Powell’s protege, and viewed as Rusty 2.0.

    “There’s a moment for reinvention,” said Gail Anderson, a museum consultant, about replacing a veteran leader. “How do you change the culture of an institution, its position in the community? You have this moment to pivot.”

    The job description posted in May says the museum seeks a “tested executive” but it does not specifically require candidates to have experience as a museum director. The language could be seen as an attempt to cast a wide net that might identify an outsider rather than someone in the leadership pipeline, said the Corcoran’s Rice. The posting’s stated priority of making “the National Gallery truly national . . . as broad and diverse as the country it serves” is evidence that it is open to change, she said.

    Museums around the country are grappling with diversity and inclusion in staffing, especially at senior levels. A 2015 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation report found that only 16 percent of museum leaders were people of color. The American Alliance of Museums highlighted diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion as a top priority in a 2017 report titled "Facing Change."

    In the National Gallery’s 77-year history, four white men have been directors. “I think it would be great if they hired a woman,” Rice said. “It would be breaking the glass ceiling and be really inspiring to other museums.”

    The National Gallery’s job description also highlights the need for a digital strategy, another hot-button issue in the museum world and an area where the museum has fallen behind. The museum recorded 8.2 million visitors to its website last year, according to the Web-traffic monitor SimilarWeb. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had 38.3 million visitors, the Museum of Modern Art 27.7 million visitors and the Getty Museum 14.7 million.

    Digital is the future because it can be the first interaction that people have with a museum, said Sree Sreenivasan, former chief digital officer at the Met and a social media consultant.

    “It’s been set up as a contest between having visitors online . . . or serving your mission. There’s no reason you can’t do both,” Sreenivasan said. “We have an opportunity here to find leaders who want to make us relevant in a world where millennials have a different take on life. Museums should have WiFi and places to charge their phones because they’ll stay longer. They should feel like it’s a place that’s welcoming.”

    The museum has lots of catching up to do. In the NGA’s 2017 annual report, it highlighted its first strategic plan for social media, a move many years behind other institutions. As a result, the museum pales in comparison to its peers. It has about 1.3 million followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, compared with MoMA’s 11 million and the Met’s 8.8 million.

    Being that far behind represents missed opportunities, Sreenivasan said. “You make a funnel as big as possible to touch as many people in the world. Some will become visitors, members, trustees, or leave you their collection,” he said. “A digital transformation has to happen.”

    The gallery's next director will inherit serious management problems. A Washington Post report in March detailed long-simmering issues with the museum's security force, where harassment and retaliation are common, leading to costly turnover among its staff. The same problems exist in other departments, including retail, archives, art and publications, according to interviews with current and former staff.

    “I used to describe it as in need of an exorcism,” said Maria Aragon, who worked in the museum’s shops for 14 years before leaving earlier this year.

    Employees describe a top-down work environment that ignores complaints by prematurely closing investigations, according to several workers who described their struggles with supervisors and personnel officials assigned to address the complaints. Whistleblowers are reprimanded and favorites are promoted to positions they are unqualified to hold. The problems result in missed deadlines, error-ridden publications, including the catalogue that accompanied the recent Michel Sittow exhibition, and over-budget exhibitions. And the cost is borne by taxpayers, who contribute three of every four dollars required to run the museum.

    These problems can in turn affect visitors’ experiences.

    “Have you gone into a museum where it feels electric? That’s because staff are energized, they are empowered and the visitor totally benefits,” Anderson said.

    Current and former employees say the problems persist because the gallery’s haphazard handling of complaints. Colleagues in one department, for example, said they described the same problems at their exit interviews, and yet the personnel officer acted as if the complaints were new. Curator Andrew Robison was allowed to retire in 2016 following multiple sexual harassment complaints, according to three employees. The gallery spokeswoman said it cannot comment on personnel matters.

    Robison said a complaint was filed after he criticized “a female staff member because of her deportment toward others.” He denied there were previous complaints.

    “It had nothing to do with sexual aggressiveness or anything like that,” he said. “She was a troublemaker. This was long before the #MeToo stuff.”

    Robison, who was senior curator of prints and drawings, still returns to the museum to work on his own projects. “He was allowed back in the department, around the women who accused him,” said Sarah Holley, who retired in January after 17 years in various departments, including communications. “Things like that make you feel small.”

    Robison said he gets no special access but works in the library and print study room, which are open to the public by appointment.

    Holley is among several insiders who say the new director must advocate for an inspector general, as is common with many federal agencies, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and the National Endowment for the Arts. An inspector general would provide oversight, protect the gallery from fraud and other abuses, and ensure uniform handling of personnel issues, they say. Employees of the National Gallery have pushed for this office for decades, to no avail.

    No matter who gets the nod, the next leader of Washington’s premier art museum takes the helm at a time of major change in the cultural world. Museums, even ones that have significant government support, are complex organizations that require fundraising prowess, artful management and a vision for the future. Executives must navigate changing visitor tastes and increased competition for their attention, while simultaneously preserving an institution’s mission and engaging its strongest supporters.

    “There’s change coming. Who is going to set you up for the next 10 years? Who is out there who can really connect with our public? The public is who we answer to, not to other museums or other journals that seven people read. That’s not what is sparking the imagination,” Sreenivasan said.

    The job is made more difficult if the staff needs a morale boost, say the experts.

    “This is a healing process, and that kind of change takes time,” Anderson said. “If there is somebody who is leading the change at all levels, the payoff is the public goes, ‘Hey there is something new going on over there.’ ”

    See Original Post

  • September 11, 2018 1:08 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Greek City Times

    Another ‘oil spray’ attack has occurred in a Greek museum, this time at Athens popular Benaki, with the offender spraying a greasy oil substance on pedestals and frames, as well as on two items in the collection.

    The Benaki Museum was established in 1930 by Antonis Benakis and is housed in the Benakis family mansion in downtown Athens. The museum houses Greek works of art from the prehistorical to the modern times. Last month a similar incident occurred at the Byzantine and Christian Museum the previous month.

    “On Sunday, August 26, 2018, traces of a scentless and transparent oil-based substance were found in locations in the Benaki Museum. They were caused by two individuals, as in a recent similar case, who were recorded by the museum’s security system cameras. The traces were found mainly on bases and frames, were reversible and have already been cleaned off. On two items of the collection traces of the same substance were found, without having caused damage,” the museum said.

    The museum has reported the incident to the police and the culture ministry and is cooperating with both closely to find the culprits and prevent similar incidents, it added.

    See Original Post

  • September 11, 2018 1:01 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from CNN

    A pair of red sequined slippers from the classic 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" has been found, 13 years after they disappeared from a Minnesota museum, law enforcement said Tuesday.

    But the investigation continues into who's responsible for the 2005 theft of the cherished piece of movie memorabilia.

    "We reached the first goal, the recovery, and it's a great day," North Dakota United States Attorney Christopher Myers said. "But we're not done."

    The slippers are one of four known pairs that actress Judy Garland wore in her role as Dorothy in the classic film. They disappeared in August 2005 from a museum dedicated to the actress in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. 

    The theft sparked years of rumors and dead-end leads. Finally, a tip last summer led law enforcement outside Minnesota, and the FBI got involved. This summer, the shoes were seized in an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the FBI said. 

    "There's a certain romance in these types of schemes, sometimes sophistication, but at the end of the day it's a theft," Myers said.

    "These types of offenses not only deprive the owner of their property, but all of us," Myers said. "This type of cultural property is important to us as a society. It reflects culture, it holds our memories, it reflects our values."

    The long-lost slippers were shown to reporters Tuesday at the FBI's Minneapolis headquarters in a news conference conducted in reverential tones, with repeated references to rainbows and the memorable quote "there's no place like home."

    "They're more than just a pair of shoes, the slippers. They're an enduring symbol of the power of belief," Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson said.

    Memorabilia collector Michael Shaw loaned the slippers to the Judy Garland Museum for Grand Rapids' annual "Wizard of Oz" festival in 2005. Shaw rejected the museum's offer to store them in a vault each night because he didn't want people handling the delicate shoes by moving them daily, he said in the 2016 documentary, "The Slippers."

    "But most importantly, I was assured that the museum had security," said Shaw.

    A thief broke in through the museum's back door, according to the Grand Rapids Police Department. The perpetrator smashed a glass case in the museum's gallery and stole the slippers, which were insured for $1 million. The alarm did not sound to a central dispatch station and no fingerprints were left behind, police said.

    The theft was "the biggest thing that ever happened to our museum," museum co-founder Jon Miner told CNN affiliate KQDS in 2015. "We were literally crying."

    Investigators had no evidence, aside from a single sequin that had fallen off one of the slippers. As the mystery deepened, museum staff became the target of rumors of an inside job, allegations they vehemently denied.

    "We're the ones that want to find them because they were entrusted to us," Miner said in "The Slippers."

    Ten years after the theft, the museum teamed up with the Itasca County Sheriff's Dive Team to investigate the theory that someone had thrown the slippers into a nearby lake. During the 40th Annual "Wizard of Oz" Festival, divers scoured the depths of the Tioga Mine Pit lake but came up empty-handed. 

    Tips flowed in over the years but they led either nowhere -- or to reproductions. One week, they were nailed to a wall in a roadside diner in Missouri, or resting at the bottom of a water-filled ore pit. Would-be tipsters reported them on display at the Smithsonian, which was true -- "Yeah, we know that, that's another pair," Johnson said.

    "The thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city's most famous children," Johnson said.

    A break in the case came in the summer of 2017, the FBI said in a statement.

    An individual approached the company that insured the slippers, saying he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned, and "it became apparent that those involved were in reality attempting to extort the owners of the slippers," Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation from the FBI's Minneapolis Division, said in the statement.

    After nearly a yearlong investigation involving the bureau's Art Crime Team, the FBI Laboratory, and field offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami, the slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the statement said.

    Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division of the FBI, called the shoes' recovery a "significant milestone." But law enforcement is still seeking information about the 2005 theft, she said.

    "This is still a very, very active and ongoing investigation," said Sanborn.

    Over the years, the mystery of the slippers' disappearance only seemed to enhance their reputation as one of the most coveted items on the Hollywood memorabilia market.

    Valued at $2 million to $3 million and thought to be worth as much as $5 million at auction, they would be hard to sell on the black market -- and even harder to hide.

    "Whoever has them, illicitly, has their hands full with them," journalist Rhys Thomas said in "The Slippers."

    "One way or another, over the course of time, the shoes will out you."

    Thomas tracked down several pairs of the famed shoes for a Los Angeles Times article published in 1988.

    In the documentary, Shaw says he bought the shoes from a Hollywood costume designer who found them in MGM Studios' backlot property in Culver City, California. As the story goes, Kent Warner found several pairs on a dusty shelf and took one to the famed MGM Studios auction in 1970. He kept the rest for himself -- the exact number is not clear -- selling them off to collectors, including Shaw.

    Meanwhile, a Tennessee schoolteacher won another pair in a contest in 1940. She sold them at auction in 1988 to a private collector for $165,000.

    Another pair has been on display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington since 1979. In 2016, the organization launched an online campaign to raise money to restore their luster.

      In 2012, a group of actors led by Leonardo DiCaprio purchased a pair to be displayed at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open this year in Los Angeles.

      As Glinda the Good Witch says in the movie when she is describing the slippers' appeal to the Wicked Witch, "Their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn't want them so badly."

      See Original Post

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