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  • December 16, 2015 1:12 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Karl Hoerig

    Museum store security starts with museum security. When thinking about security, you must consider all of the threats your facility, collections, and shop might face.That includes the obvious threat of loss or damage due to the acts of criminally-inclined people. It also includes threats like the threat of loss to fire, or damage that can be caused by water--either by way of natural floods or by the unwanted introduction of water from broken pipes or failed fire-sprinkler heads.  Your store inventory and cash is far less sensitive than your museum collections, so the protection you have for your facility (you do have it, right?) should be more than adequate to protect your shop.

    Hopefully your facility has adequate and appropriate monitoring and alarm systems for fire, water, and intrusion. At the very least, your museum should have a central alarm system that is monitored all the time. This system should include smoke and/or heat detectors in every room; water sensors anywhere you might have water coming into your facility (e.g. basements); a flow sensor attached to your fire sprinkler system if you have one; and perimeter and interior motion detectors to sense unauthorized after-hours access.

    Unless you have your own 24-hour security team, you should contract with an alarm monitoring company that will alert your local fire and police departments and call you if an alarm is tripped.

    If your museum store is located inside your museum facility, it should be included in the net of protection provided by this system. If your shop is not inside your main facility, try at a minimum to maintain a monitored intrusion and fire alarm system for your shop. You should be able to add it to your main facility's monitoring contract.

    Security during business hours is a bit more of a worry. Unlike your collections storage areas or the locked cases in your exhibit galleries, you want people -- as many people as possible -- to come into your museum store and to touch your merchandise.

    Your first consideration should always be for the personal safety of your staff. They are not paid enough, nor are they trained to serve as a private police force. Everyone on your staff should understand that they are not expected to place themselves in danger to protect merchandise or cash. If confronted by an assailant that they deem to be dangerous, no museum shop staff member should ever do anything that could place them in danger. If a bad guy has a weapon or makes a threat, let them take the stuff, then call the police.

    Another issue to be aware of is that it may not be legal for you or your staff to detain someone who has stolen from your store. Forcibly detaining someone might give them grounds for civil and criminal complaints against you, in addition to potentially being dangerous. Always be careful when confronting someone you suspect of shoplifting or other theft.

    That being said, there are lots of things that you and your staff can do to eliminate the likelihood of ever having to deal with bad guys.

    We have a rule that there must always be at least two museum personnel in near proximity to the admissions desk and museum store. This helps to insure the safety of our staff, and also guarantees that we've got extra help nearby if a tour bus unexpectedly shows up.

    Events like armed robberies or after-hours break-ins are thankfully fairly rare. The two most common sources of loss in retail stores are shoplifting and employee theft. Shoplifting is an obvious threat.

    Unfortunately, employee theft is not as uncommon as we'd like it to be. Of course, none of our staffs would ever steal from our stores, but there are times when people just seem to think that since we've got 100 of those t-shirts in stock, no one will ever miss one, or who just can't handle the volume of cash that touches their fingers without some of it ending up in their pockets.

    In all matters relating to security, vigilance is the key to minimizing problems. You and your staff should always remain aware. If someone is acting strangely or the numbers don't seem quite right, something probably is not quite right.

    The good news is, just having a well-trained staff who do their jobs is the most important thing you can do. For example, shoplifters are much less likely to try to steal if they know someone is watching them.

    Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and the most successful retailer of all time, came up with the idea to put greeters at the entrance to each of his stores because he figured that no one would steal if they thought their grandmother was watching them. It makes a difference.

    If your store staff is paying attention to each guest that enters your store, greeting them and following the other recommendations for good customer service, you remove most opportunities that those so inclined would have to steal from your store. 

    Do everything you can to make it easy for your staff to see what's going on in the store at all times.

    This includes things like cash register placement. When developing your store layout you do not want to put the "cash and wrap" in a spot that will block interested shoppers from getting into the store (the problem we have at Nohwike' Bágowa), but you do want to place it where your staff can easily see the store exits and the sales floor.

    It's also a good idea not to display small, unsecured items in a back corner of the shop, or anywhere else where it's easy for a shoplifter to access them unseen.

    As discussed before, I think there is real merchandising value to placing items where shoppers can touch them. Try to create those opportunities in places where your shop staff will be able to keep an eye on the activity, like near your checkout counter. This is all obvious, common-sense stuff, but it does make a difference in discouraging "shrinkage."

    Minimizing employee theft is also mostly common sense. Well trained, engaged staff members who are personally invested in your institution's success are less likely to be inclined to steal. 

    Be sure you keep close tabs on your sales, cash transactions, and inventory. You should trust your employees, but also make it your responsibility to keep track of what's going on. Building a culture of trust in which everyone knows their job and is always aware of your store's mission will help.

    You can't always tell who might succumb to temptation, as I have unfortunately learned the hard way.


    Security cameras can be helpful deterrents to all forms of theft. In fact, the simple presence of visible cameras can be enough to discourage many would-be thieves.

    In the past, there was a thriving business in pseudo-security cameras: fakes that businesses installed to make people think that they were being filmed.  In the last few years real camera systems have gotten so much better and cheaper that it doesn't make sense to pay for fakes anymore.

    Security cameras are useful, but they are not the be-all, end-all answer to store security. One of the most significant limitations to security cameras is that you have to know something has happened, and generally when it happened, for them to be of any real value. You will likely not be able to afford to have a security person monitoring your cameras all the time, and you can easily find yourself spending dozens of hours watching your security footage if you know something has happened but not when. Example: that $600 soapstone sculpture that was on that display stand with five other sculptures is missing. We noticed it today, but who knows how long it's been gone.

    So you go to your surveillance video files and check the (digital equivalent of) tape for each morning going back until you see the piece there (if you happen to have a camera where it would be visible). Then you have to narrow down your search by each hour until you see it missing, then watch to see what happened to it. If you do not get a good view of the thief, or no one from your staff recognizes the perpetrator, you still don't get much out of it. If the stolen piece is not clearly visible from your security cameras, you will never be able to track when it was taken.

    But they can work! We were using an antiquated VHS tape-based system when a kid stole our donation box a few years ago.

  • October 15, 2015 10:23 AM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    By Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI
    Founding Director, IFCPP

    I once asked a museum director if his institution did background screening on its volunteers.  “Are you crazy,” he replied.  “If we did that, we wouldn’t have any volunteers.”   I’m not sure if that was an indication that none of them would pass the screen, or if none of them would submit to it.  

    All of us recognize the many benefits a strong volunteer program brings to an institution.  In many places, volunteers far outnumber paid staff.   Without the work they provide, some programs could conceivably be lost.   We forget, however, that volunteers are just “people.”  And people, given the right opportunity, steal.  People, with the proper motivation, take advantage of other people…financially, physically, even sexually.   It logically follows, therefore, that any “people” brought into the workforce, regardless of whether or not they are compensated, should undergo a reasonable screening of their background and character.  This exactly the language used by the courts in examining cases of negligent hiring.   We screen to protect the good people in the workforce, visitors, and other volunteers, from being subjected to our exposed to those who would take advantage of them, or cause harm.

    The level of depth of the screening should be dependent on the applicant’s exposure to people and access to assets.   ALL applicants should undergo a thorough check for criminal histories.  It should be asked on the application and verified by a records check.  This may be done directly through the courts or through a professional background service.

    If the applicant is serving to greet guests, has access to no keys, assets, or classes with minor children, then minimal screens may be performed.   The information on the application needs to be verified.  If a falsehood is discovered, the process is over and the applicant should be denied.  This includes employment history, driving record, education, licenses or certifications held.  Credit histories should be performed on all of those persons who will handle cash or accessioned artwork.

    Everyone should be able to account for their time, for no less than the past ten years.  You have to be somewhere….gainfully employed, in school, in the military, undergoing health care…or in prison.   Some records must exist, somewhere, which verifies this existence.  Women who were married and not employed should have access to tax records showing a joint return for the time period in question.

    If volunteers are asked to perform certain tasks with special knowledge or education, they should be trained identically to paid employees who perform those tasks.  The bottom line…Volunteers are worth their weight in gold.  Just be sure they’re not taking the gold with them….

  • August 05, 2015 5:37 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    An Invitation from Our Hosts:

    To all who devote their time, talent and resources to protecting the treasures of civilization, I applaud your efforts. Your collections may be in an enclosure requiring food and water, sitting quietly on a shelf waiting for that student or researcher to come and examine your pages, hang on a wall, sit on a pedestal or be the building everything else is stored in - regardless of what the collection is, we who have taken on the duty to protect and preserve these collections must come together and celebrate or successes. I extend a personal invitation to each of you to come, share and learn from one another concerning what works, and what doesn't. What can you expect from the 2015 IFCPP conference? An Excellent learning experience, surrounded by incredible architecture in a beautiful natural setting. This years sessions at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will emphasize collaboration - between museum departments and externally with other institutions and local agencies. Going it alone is not what will get us through the tough times, and challenges of day to day museum life. Large or small we need each other. Come, relax, learn, socialize and strategize with others - then return home refreshed with a useful bag of tools.

    I look forward to sharing this experience with you.  See you in October!

    Geoff Goodrich, CIPM II, CIPI
    Director of Protection Services
    Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
    Check us out at:

  • August 05, 2015 5:33 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    IFCPP is very pleased to welcome aboard two new office assistants, Jennifer Davis and Mellany Coates.  We very much look forward to working with Jen and Mell, and are confident that our members will enjoy working with them as well.  Gwin Coleman, of SharpCo Designs, continues to provide outstanding IT consulting, web design, and graphic design.

  • August 05, 2015 5:32 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    IFCPP instructor and longtime contributor, Douglas McGrew, CIPM II, CIPI, CSSP (Director of Central Campus Security Services for the Ohio State University Department of Public Safety), was just awarded the Certified Sport Security Professionals designation by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at The University of Southern Mississippi.  Congratulations Doug, and thanks very much for your continued devotion to raising the level of professionalism in the security industry!

    The CSSP certification focuses on advancing the sports safety and security industry by addressing the competency requirements of current security professionals and those related professionals in law enforcement, emergency management, government, public safety, human resources, and event management, among others.  The CSSP designation is awarded to individuals who meet the education and experience criteria, and who demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill and ability by successfully completing the CSSP multiple choice examination.

  • August 05, 2015 5:31 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    In recent queries we have learned that many cultural institutions have no comprehensive, workable, or even viable disaster plan. Effective plans include thorough analyses of your state of readiness, an objective look at perceived threats, and a practical plan for mitigating threats and/or recovering from a disaster.  Less than half of the businesses that close during a disaster ever reopen.

    To address these issues in a practical manner, this two-hour workshop brings together recognized experts in Emergency Operations Planning to address elements of life safety, staffing, training, operations, agency coordination, evacuation, and asset protection.   Our panel of experts will listen to your concerns, and discuss best practices for resolving the specific issues that you face.  Participants will leave this program with an outline for formulating your own plan, responsive to the direct needs of your institution.  

  • July 29, 2015 5:30 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    Safety is certainly a concern for those attending public events, as violent incidents and copycat attacks continue to receive media attention.  IFCPP President, Steve Layne, was just interviewed by Southern California Public Radio following the recent shootings in Lafayette, LA. The question voiced by many, "is it safe to go to the movies?" And "what can theaters do to improve safety?"

    Our first suggestion to anyone visiting cultural and entertainment venues (or any other business) - observe emergency exits everywhere you go. Think about how you can get out quickly in an emergency, and what the alternative may be if an exit is blocked. Theaters have made some improvements, most of which are not visible to the public. More intensive entry screening helps, but it's labor intensive, and probably too costly for many entertainment venues. It is critical that we remain alert to suspicious acts and/or persons, and we do not hesitate to report these to management or law enforcement.  Are there creative measures we can take to encourage our visitors to do the same?

    While recent perpetrators appear to have acted alone, their behavior and actions prior to the incident may very well have alerted others to a potential problem. The ongoing publicity alone will spur others to imitate violent acts.  Encourage staff and visitors to report any activity where violent acts are threatened, on social media or in person.

  • July 29, 2015 5:28 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    Thanks to Donna Sack and her staff for their hospitality and excellent arrangements at the Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) conference in Cincinnati. Congratulations again to those attendees attending the Certified Institutional Protection Manager (CIPM) workshop, and our thanks to those attending our special program "Are We Safe," the IFCPP-sponsored session covering a variety of timely cultural property protection concerns.

  • July 29, 2015 5:23 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    Scheduled for October 27-October 31, we begin the event with a visit to the fantastic Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, OK.  After special tours and an outstanding evening networking event, conference participants will depart the following day for beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas, where our hosts at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art welcome us to their world-renowned institution. Attendees will marvel at this beautiful new museum, and learn in a superb and unique setting.

    Check out a bit of what’s in store for us at:

    Conference Sessions will include:
    CIPM Certification – New conference participants can earn industry certification with the only management-level professional designation offered in cultural property protection. 

    Topics include: Personnel Management; Fire Protection; Litigation Avoidance; Protecting Collections/Assets; Emergency Management; Technology Considerations; Workplace Violence Prevention

    Disaster Planning – IFCPP’s all-new interactive workshop. Leading experts will moderate a discussion group allowing participants to acquire input and creative solutions for your specific disaster preparedness and response considerations and concerns.

    Agency Collaboration – Our hosts at Crystal Bridges will be leading a multi-disciplinary panel of local emergency response agencies to discuss creative solutions for cooperation, preparation and response.

    Departmental Collaboration – Several Crystal Bridges team leaders will conduct a series of workshops and tours discussing challenges and success stories from a variety of collaborative efforts.  Learn how museum-wide cooperation and collaboration has been achieved, helping to make Crystal Bridges one of the world’s leading new institutions.  Plan to bring your own challenges to the table for group discussion and problem-solving.

    And More – Stay tuned for program updates as we finalize details for an outstanding new educational program…


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