INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
Crises trigger some of the best and the worst responses from people. Emotions run high, and security and resilience professionals are under strain to find the most suitable response.
Last week, as I was attending a benchmarking meeting about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the meeting ended on this final note: "The most important thing right now is communication." This does not mean crisis communications—a specific technical expertise—but instead the communication that forms the bedrock of human-to-human relationships. But how can security and crisis management experts advance this effort?
When working as a corporate security and crisis management expert on the Arab Spring situation in the early 2010s, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or even a long kidnap and ransom case, I often felt a lot of frustration and sadness from my spotless and safe (home) office. I felt as though those plans and documents I had so carefully worked on and trained for could never help the situation or have a genuine impact on the crisis at hand. I had to go with the flow. I felt powerless.
But that was not necessarily the case. I could coordinate with government agencies, send a supporting team to evacuate our people and send them funds and all sorts of goods. I could book hotel rooms for them to have a safe space to stay. I could monitor the situation daily and ask our analysts to write intelligence papers to help us understand the situation better and get some visibility. There were so many other tactical actions I could take that counted.
Then, it dawned on me that amid all these disruptions my job was to put all my effort into how I communicate with my stakeholders: my peers, my team, my colleagues, the executives, and, most importantly, the people impacted directly or indirectly by the given crisis.
So, practically speaking, what does communication mean during a crisis?
To answer this question, let’s go back to basics. Communication is a two-way street. Whether by email, phone, WhatsApp, Telegram, or face-to-face, communication involves at least two people, and it requires a cardinal element for it to be effective: trust.
When the situation in Ukraine escalated on 24 February, the trust equation came back to me. Introduced in 2000 by David Maister in his book The Trusted Advisor, the formula says that trustworthiness equals the sum of credibility (C), reliability (R), and intimacy (I) divided by self-orientation (S).
Our credibility is our words and how believable we seem. Our reliability relates to our actions and how dependable we seem. Intimacy includes our emotions and how safe people feel sharing their own emotions, needs, expectations, and everything that matters to them with us. Finally, self-orientation, which sits alone in the denominator, is the most critical variable in the trust equation. Maister and his coauthors, Charles Green and Robert Galford, developed the formula to express that the less we focus on our personal interests, the more we can focus entirely on our stakeholders.
Such a focus is rare and requires intense self-awareness and self-management. Even the best crisis experts, managers, and leaders can have difficulty defocusing their self-orientation during an emergency. There are two main reasons for that: everyone looks up to these professionals to decide, support, and lead the way, and managing crises is stressful.
To translate the trust equation to the current crisis in Ukraine, when I connect with stakeholders involved and/or impacted by the crisis, it means that what I say I will do, I do; if I cannot do something, I say it; if I do not know something, I say that, too.
This also means using plain language that everybody understands. A crisis is not the time for fancy jargon that could be misinterpreted. As far as intimacy goes, I demonstrate vulnerability by admitting my fears and concerns, reacting to the emotions behind what is being said, expressing emotional candor, and having the courage to be human. Finally, when I address my stakeholders, I have a clear intention to demonstrate low self-orientation. I confirm my approach works for them and think aloud to be transparent and engaging. This approach does not make me less of a leader.
When I interact with my stakeholders and have these four variables right, the stakeholders trust me, and they listen to what I need from them. Suddenly, they start caring for my needs (the corporate plans and processes and the daily briefings for the corporate crisis management team, among other things) because purposeful communication creates a response in which people will start to emotionally engage with me in a reciprocal way.
Yes, it all comes down to reciprocity, another key concept in studies of influence and persuasion. But the leader needs to go all-in first. That is the leader’s job. That is what communicating means. It requires a very high degree of emotional intelligence and a daily self-check-up to make sure my stakeholders get the best of me as a trustworthy professional.
Once trust has been established through effective communication, a stronger bond starts to unite people. The sense of unity that emerges is an incredible byproduct of trust and is quite contrary to our job since we monitor the news 24/7 for cleaving situations, incidents, crises, disasters, and any other disruptive events. Yet, it is quite inappropriate to say that we need a break from the dividing news. It comes with the job description.
To get out of a crisis, any crisis, we need to focus on building unity through purposeful communication, ethical reciprocity, and authentic trust-building efforts with our stakeholders. The trust equation is one tool to accomplish this, and there are many others.
After all, even from afar and away from political offices and other governmental agencies where decisions are made, security and resilience professionals can have a true impact on crises. What if we focused on the fact that when we chose to, we are agents of peace?
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Reposted from ArtNet News
Two employees were stabbed on Saturday at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, triggering an emergency evacuation of the institution.
Emergency Medical Services brought the victims to Bellevue Hospital within minutes, according to a briefing from the New York Police Department. Their injuries are nonfatal and they are in stable condition.
The attack took place at 4:15 p.m. after the perpetrator—a regular at the museum—was denied entrance because his membership had been revoked after two separate incidents of disorderly conduct there in recent days, the police said. He had received a letter about the revocation one day earlier.
“He became upset about not being allowed entrance and jumped over the reception desk and proceeded to attack and stab employees of the museum multiple times,” said John Miller, deputy director of intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD. The victims, both age 24, sustained injuries in the back, collarbone, and back of the neck, he said.
On Sunday, police released the identity of the suspect: 60-year-old Gary Cabana, a Broadway usher. In video footage, he can be seen leaping over the film desk at the museum to attack two front-desk employees who had denied him entrance to a screening of Bringing Up Baby. He was recorded leaving the museum and is not yet in custody. Police are now offering a reward of up to $3,500 for information leading to Cabana’s arrest.
A representative for MoMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The museum remained closed on Sunday.
Artnet News was in the galleries when the attack took place. It was just after 4:30 p.m. when security guards informed visitors that they were clearing the building, and that everyone had to evacuate through the 54th Street exit.
The crowds viewing the Sophie Taeuber Arp exhibition were confused, dragging their feet as they craned their necks to get one last look at the artist’s tapestries and marionettes.
“This is serious,” a security guard snapped. “It’s an emergency and you need to leave!”
As the public exited the show and approached the stairs, some were scanning social media for news of what had happened. By the time Artnet News got outside and circled back to 53rd Street, an ambulance was speeding away.
C.S. Muncy, a freelance photographer for Gothamist, had been around the corner at Uniqlo when he got an emergency news alert about the attack and arrived on the scene in time to photograph two victims as they got into the ambulance.
Both were conscious and talking, and one proclaimed that “I’m going to get hazard pay,” Muncy told Artnet News.
As museumgoers spilled out into the streets, confusion reigned.
“Not one person said anything about refunds—they were just like, ‘let’s go!'” one guest observed as they left the premises.
“I was just trying to enjoy Starry Night,” their friend responded.
Meanwhile, guards at the main entrance on 53rd Street were turning away would-be guests, as the museum is typically open late, until 7 p.m., on Saturdays.
Through the window, one could see a stand full of unclaimed umbrellas, abandoned in the rush to clear the building.
Down the block, at the museum’s film entrance, police were putting up caution tape. As a small crowd of photojournalists snapped photographs, officers struggled to close the silvery curtains in the window to block the scene from view.
“I would never imagine an attack in this museum. They have metal detectors and a lot of security,” Hernando Restrepo, a doorman at neighboring Museum Tower, told Artnet News. “That is crazy.”
Reposted from ArtNews
On Thursday, UNESCO announced that it was “gravely concerned” about threats to cultural heritage sites across Ukraine amid escalating violence by Russian forces. The organization said it was now trying to meet with Ukrainian museum officials to discuss safeguarding cultural property at risk amid the ongoing conflict, and that it plans to hold a session on March 15 to examine the impact of damage sustained across the country so far.
Concerns over destruction to arts institutions and public buildings are multiplying following attacks in historic squares in Kharkiv and Chernihiv, as well as burnings and missile strikes targeting a local history museum in Ivankiv and the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv. Historic complexes in Lviv and Kyiv’s Cathedral of Saint Sophia, which is located near a group of buildings that Russian forces have targeted, are among those that experts have said warrant special protection.
Both UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund, a New York nonprofit that tracks status of cultural heritage sites around the globe, have invoked the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which calls for protections for cultural property from military attacks. The Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO-designated World Heritage sites.
“Damage to museums and heritage sites extends far beyond physical destruction,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, president and CEO of World Monuments Fund, in a statement to ARTnews.
In response to the damage inflicted in Kyiv last week, the United States National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) called the intentional destruction of museums in the city by the Russian military “reckless,” adding that it violates the “reasonable expectations of civil society and the treaty obligations of which the United States, Russia, and Ukraine are all signatories.”
Montlaur pointed to ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq in 2014 that has kept refugees from returning as an example of the long-term effects of cultural property erasure. “The psychological toll on communities lingers on even after fighting has ended,” she added.
Reposted from NPR
Everyone I tell about this story immediately smiles — it's such a great idea. Last year, the Baltimore Museum of Art invited their guards to curate an exhibition. And since then, BMA security officers have been working on it with professional curators and other staffers, leading up to its March 27 opening. Working with various museum departments, they learned what it takes to put up an exhibition — and got paid for it, too, in addition to their regular salaries. And they had a terrific time, at least according to the ones I spoke with. One of them, in fact, burst into song!
Kellen Johnson has been a guard at the BMA for almost nine years. He's also studying vocal performance at Towson University in Maryland. He loves music, as well the extra money from the project. "I'm working my way through college" he says.
With most of the museum's collection to choose from, Kellen picked a Hale Woodruff work for the exhibition.
Kellen's passion for music informed his choice. "I asked myself, 'if these paintings could sing, what would they sound like?'" That one sang Mozart to him. "Made me think about walking along a row of trees on a darkish day."
The BMA has 45 guards. The 17 who applied for the project picked artworks ranging from sixth-century pre-Columbian sculpture, to a 1925 French door knocker, to a 2021 protest painting. The various guards themselves have a wide range of experience. They've published poetry, majored in philosophy, tended bar, walked dogs, smiled at nine grandchildren and served in the Army.
The veteran among them is Traci Archable-Frederick. She's worked at BMA since 2006, after a stint at the Department of Homeland Security at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Off the job, her museum bio says, she likes eating crabs (Maryland, where she was born, is famous for them; a beloved local joke is Virginia is for lovers, Maryland is for crabs).
She wanted her choice to "address the ongoing protests and racial tensions in the U.S." Artist Mickalene Thomas's protest artwork is adorned with glitter, rhinestones, photos and the face of author James Baldwin.
"Everything I want to say is in this piece," Archbale-Frederick says. And she quotes James Baldwin: "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced."
Change was a theme behind several of the artworks the security guards chose for exhibition. Many of the pieces had rarely or never been on view at the museum before. Change for museum walls was on guest curator/guard Elise Tensley's mind.
In their day jobs, Tensley and the other guards aren't on duty in the same gallery for months on end; they rotate. But I wondered whether, despite the rotation, she ever zones out when looking at the same artworks. "Sometimes I do," she says. "But I use it to get some exercise. I walk around the galleries. I get my steps in."
BMA Director Christopher Bedford has observed that guards spend more time with these works than anyone else in the museum. And Chief Curator Asma Naeem, one of the people who came up with the idea of security/curators, says they pick up lots of insights, and pass them along to visitors.
Naeem remembers her early days of museum-going. "For me, walking into a museum for the first time was something very intimidating." Guards helped. "I felt like I could go up to one of the guards and hear their observations and comments, and just ease into being a visitor." Now, as a professional curator, Naeem says guards still play an important role for her. "Any time you talk to any one of them it just becomes this glorious break from the monotony of the museum."
Art historian and curator Lowery Stokes Sims appreciates the security officers in this BMA project for a different, maybe more personal, reason. A former director of the Studio Museum of Harlem, she's spent 50 years in the art world. Sometimes, she says, it has felt like a very long time. Then, she sat in on meetings where the BMA guards pitched their picks. "I was so energized and enthused to hear these extraordinary personal reactions to art. It was so beyond the art-speak that I'm used to. It was fresh, immediate, personal and perceptive." It had a profound effect, she says. "It happened to me at a point when I really needed to be energized about art again."
When it opens, visitors to "Guarding the Art" may also be energized by these choices of the security guards. And maybe go up to one of them, for a little chat.
Reposted from Artnet News
As Ukraine defends itself against invading Russian forces, the nation’s museums find themselves in a dire situation, charged with protecting the nation’s art and culture in a time of crisis. As events on the ground change rapidly, it remains to be seen how institutions will fare and what will become of Ukraine’s rich cultural heritage.
While many Ukrainians have become refugees, leaving roads clogged with traffic as residents flee the country, museum employees are are doing their best to look out for their collections—whether that means transporting objects abroad, secreting them away into basements and other secure locations, or just beefing up on-the-ground security.
Moving collections out of the country is complicated by the fact that state museums need government permission to do so, and filing such paperwork can take time. Kyiv’s Museum of Freedom, which was founded in 2014 to memorialize the nation’s pro-democracy movement, had applied for such permission as tensions with Russia mounted, but still hadn’t been approved to act when the invasion began and is now working to find secure storage facilities within the city.
“Our museum is evidence of Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” director Ihor Poshyvailo told the New York Times. “Of course I’m fearful.”
The Museum of Freedom is just one of thousands of institutions in the city, all of which are now under threat. At the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, also in Kyiv, workers spent 12 hours on Thursday moving objects into storage, while six hours south on the Black Sea, the Odessa Fine Arts Museum put up barbed wire and hid art in the basement.
The museum posted a Ukrainian flag and dove emoji on Instagramunder the hashtag #PeaceForUkraine yesterday, warning that the space was closed and for everyone to “keep your eyes and ears open.”
International museums have also scrambled to recall loans to Ukraine, like artifacts related to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea that had been touring the country in an exhibition organized by the War Childhood Museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some 40 objects left Ukraine last week, but over 300 remain in Kyiv.
Olesia Ostrovska-Liuta, director general of Kyiv’s Mystetskyi Arsenal National Culture, Arts and Museum Complex, responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of the invasion by implementing the museum’s safety plan and writing a letter calling for international support against Russian aggression. (She also wrote an Artnet News op-ed about what the art world could do.) As Ostrovska-Liuta proofread the missive, “there was an air defense warning” and she was forced to take cover in a bomb shelter, she told the Art Newspaper.
“We should be preparing now the ‘Book Arsenal’ to be held in May, exhibitions, and cross-sectoral projects—instead, our team focuses the efforts to ensure the safety of our staff, our families, as well as to guard our collection,” the organization wrote on Instagram. “By escalating their eight-year-long aggression with these horrid and disgusting actions against Ukraine, by invading the territory of Ukraine, Russia is attacking the basic, fundamental principles of international peace and security, the pillars of the UN, the very existence of the Ukrainian state.”
Seven hours west of the capital, near the Polish border, the Lviv Municipal Art Center has opened its doors for those who have fled the war zone, “transforming into a place of temporary respite for displaced people and for all those who require psychological calm,” according to an Instagram post. The institution has coffee, tea, cookies, and cats, and will help refugees find temporary lodging in the city by putting them in touch with representatives of the district council.
The nation is also home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The organization issued a statement calling on Russia to respect the “1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols, to ensure the prevention of damage to cultural heritage in all its forms.”
The Museum Watch Committee, a branch of CIMAM (the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art), has also contacted member organizations in Ukraine to offer practical support.
The new armed conflicted follows the 2014 Maidan Revolution overthrowing President Viktor Yanukovych, which eventually led to the annexation of Crimea and two separatist military groups establishing the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
During the 2014 revolution, staff didn’t leave Kyiv’s National Art Museum for days, and were relieved when a Molotov cocktail that smashed through the roof didn’t explode, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The situation was more dire in Donetsk, where the Donetsk Regional Museum of Local History lost 30 percent of its collection and was struck by antitank missiles 15 times. The Izolyatsia Center for Cultural Initiatives was seized by Donetsk rebels, who looted the collection and detonated a large-scale public artwork. It now operates out of Kyiv.
Reposted from AAM
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, museums everywhere have become more people-centric. Top-line conversations have centered on the thoughts and feelings of our visitors as we have reopened under new safety standards and societal norms. For those of us working on the frontlines of museums, this has been especially crucial. Unlike many others, we have not been able to take a “wait and see” approach to living in the post-pandemic world, as we have had to make concrete and immediate decisions about how to operate in our evolving environment every day. Not in our wildest dreams would we have fathomed two years ago the situation we are currently in. There is very little literature and few if any best practices to draw on. And so, we must come up with what we believe to be the best way to serve our audiences and get back to the important work of supporting our missions and visitors.
Because there have been no definite answers to operating under these new conditions, I wanted to get a fuller picture of how other experience professionals have developed their post-disaster action plans. So, I spoke to people doing this work on the front lines around the country. While everyone I interviewed expressed relief and gratitude that their visitors were beginning to return, they also emphasized a need to pivot, flex, be agile, and tighten up—all verbs I recognized as the tenets of our reality over the past two years. Synthesizing what they shared with me, I captured four main ideas they have leaned on:
The aftershocks of the pandemic, much like those of any other disaster—environmental, social, or otherwise—have left us uncertain. These times have been unnerving to us all, but as safe spaces and havens for harboring a sense of community and belonging, museums have a responsibility to remind those who sustain us that we can sustain them too.
This was what the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles set out to do when they reopened their outdoor areas, including their nature and butterfly gardens, after a five-month whole-organization closure at the start of the pandemic. The museums’ Director of Guest Experience, Daniel Stewart, says visitors were palpably relieved to be able to come back, and surveys showed the team’s efforts helped them feel safe while doing so. “It almost seemed therapeutic for them to be able to participate in a beloved pre-pandemic activity,” Stewart reflects, “and on the front-line, we directly affected those feelings by adhering to the current best practice safety standards.”
Stewart says the museums also showed support to their dedicated supporters by pausing their membership program during the months of closure, to minimize the feeling of missing out on anything. Reaching out with support, rather than marketing messages or requests for money, can be a critical message coming off of such a tough time. The time for “selling” your visitors something is not during a closure or mid-pandemic. At that juncture, the aim is to remind your constituents that you care. The past two years have been an excellent reminder to sell less, support more.
In today’s world, we cannot just think of the museum as a “repository of things.” To fulfill our missions, we must consider how we can meet the people who use that repository where they are. This could mean physically, as in bringing museum content and programs to them, or mentally, as in serving as a place of magnificent distraction—precisely what many of us need right now.
One museum that has learned to meet visitors where they are is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. During the pandemic, the museum switched to an online timed ticketing reservation system, and staff found it improved visitor experience in multiple ways. One involved limiting the number of visitors arriving at one time. “We have a somewhat small welcome area, and it could feel overwhelming when large numbers arrived at once. By pulsing visitors in at specific times, we can better control the flow and allow more time to greet visitors,” Stephanie Wood, the museum’s Director of Guest Services, told me. The system also changed how they conducted visitor surveying. They had traditionally used in-gallery intercepts, but since they could capture email addresses through the reservation system, they switched to post-visit electronic surveys. Overall, they found this produced deeper insights and a broader understanding of their visitors’ thoughts. They have since gone back to surveying in-gallery, but Wood say they may eventually reinstate electronic surveys again in addition.
Many museums had limited resources before the pandemic closures, and now they have returned from those closures (if they have returned) with only more constraints than before, and more demands on top of it. Digital resources are more in-demand, for instance, as are staff who know how to effectively use those digital resources. We may never go back to being a society dependent on physical contact, and so new ways of utilization have become necessary. All this means that flexibility and ingenuity have never been more important. It will take novel solutions to stretch limited resources into expanded experiences.
One example of such a novel solution comes from Space Center Houston. For visitors to the museum, Guest Experience Director Chance Sanford explains, a popular experience is to take the NASA Tram Tour to visit the NASA Johnson Space Center. Pre-COVID, visitors queued for the tram in traditional serpentine fashion, but after reopening, staff realized it would be a challenge to continue this practice under new physical distancing norms, so they decided to develop a virtual queue system to replace it. In the process, they discovered that not only did this solution provide a safer way for visitors to wait to board, but it also positively affected the length and quality of their stay, because they were now free to roam the exhibits while waiting their turn, rather than spending a portion of their visit waiting in line. Especially in the pandemic era, people have become accustomed to the idea that digitization can get you want you want faster (for example, grocery delivery services and next-day delivery on Amazon), so why would visitors expect to physically queue? The use of technology has shown us that there is no need to waste time in a line.
Throughout the pandemic, norms and expectations have fluctuated, and keeping up with them has required agility. In visitor experience, this means seeking out regular updates on how visits are transpiring: tapping social media and evaluation platforms like Trip Advisor and Yelp for quick and transparent guest reads, soliciting boots-on-the-ground insight from front-line employees, and paying attention to signs of failure and reevaluating the way you are proceeding often.
One way we are staying agile at the Tampa Bay History Center is using self-service kiosks, similar to the ones you might have seen at the supermarket or drugstore. We think of these kiosks not as a means to replace human interaction, but to complement it, and a support to lean on during fluid times. With them in place, we’re ready to accommodate physical distancing and stretches when a visitor’s preference may be to interact with technology instead of a person. Agility is defined as the ability to move, think, and understand quickly, and self-service kiosks accomplish just that. They give museum front-line staff the ability to better allocate their time based off of visitor need and desire.
Post-disaster, as in regular times, visitor experience work will lead to a few negative interactions, since front-line museum employees often bear the brunt of frustrations and anxiety. There are “help wanted” signs everywhere you look right now, as front-line workers in all industries have been pushed to the brink of human endurance. The “Great Resignation” is affecting museums, restaurants, retail stores, and pretty much any outlet that serves people. Many places are posting signs in guest-facing areas urging patrons to “be patient with those who showed up” because they can’t afford to lose any more workers to abusive customers—not exactly the prettiest picture of our new normal, but accurate in many cases, and a good reminder of just how valuable our front-line is.
Through it all, each day brings an opportunity to learn more, and although the COVID-era reality has been volatile, it has brought on an essential reminder of the benefits of agility and flexibility, and perhaps most importantly, it has underlined that for museums, people are one of the most important assets they have the responsibility to protect.
Reposted from The New York Times
For months before the bombs started falling, Hayden Bassett watched over the cultural riches of Ukraine — the cathedrals of Kyiv, the historic buildings of Lviv, museums across the country and the ancient burial sites that dot its steppes.
Using satellite imagery, Bassett, 32, an archaeologist and director of the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, has monitored and mapped much of the country’s national heritage as part of a civilian effort to mark the sites that could be devastated by war.
This is the kind of job envisioned for a cadre of U.S. Army specialists being hired to succeed the storied Monuments Men of World War II, who recovered millions of European treasures looted by the Nazis. But more than two years after the Army, with some fanfare, announced the new effort, styled after the old, of dedicated art experts working in a military capacity to preserve the treasures of the past, the program is still not up and running.
“There are a lot of growing pains,” acknowledged Corine Wegener, director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, a partner in the program.
“There is this capability,” she said, “that the Army ought to have that’s not available to commanders at the moment.”
The lack of that capability has become pressing as Russia invades, and explosions threaten the golden domes and ancient frescoes of Ukraine’s cities. The pandemic certainly played a part in the hiring delay, but candidates looking to join the unit, and leaders who are forming it, have pointed to a host of other issues as well.
Some candidates describe a torturous process in which applications have been mislaid and Army review boards have been slow to decide on whether to hire the many civilian archaeologists, conservators, museum specialists and archivists who have expressed interest.
One leader of the effort, Col. Scott DeJesse, an Army Reserve officer and painter from Texas, said the military is determined to make this happen, but a large bureaucracy — whose crucial missions include emerging military threats — is being asked for the first time to directly commission civilian cultural heritage specialists into military ranks. During World War II, the Monuments Men were soldiers who had already enlisted and happened to have art historical or other specialized backgrounds.
“Look, I plan on changing the world with these people, and yes, I wish it was done sooner,” said Colonel DeJesse, who does not direct the hiring process but concentrates on the operational side of the new unit. “Are people dragging their feet? No. Is it a major priority? No. It is just the speed of a major organization like the Army.”
The plan reflects a recognition that the military needs a force of scholarly experts to advise U.S. commanders and local authorities on how to protect cultural heritage, a recognition that has intensified after the destruction and looting of ancient objects during and after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The experts will, among other things, delineate sites to avoid in airstrikes and ground fighting, and mark places like museums to be protected against looting.
Beyond the inherent value of such preservation work, officials say that efforts to protect cultural legacies have the power to bind local people and foster peace, once the shooting stops. And as a matter of diplomacy and soft power, the sight of American forces helping to save other countries’ cultural treasures can be a powerful tool in the battle for hearts and minds.
“Monuments Men is one of the best images out of the Second World War,” said Andrew Kless, director of the global studies program at Alfred University in upstate New York, an applicant to the new corps who learned in 2020 that he had been selected for an officer’s position; he is still waiting for news of his final appointment.
“This is taking longer than anything I have experienced,” he said. “That has not changed my mind about joining it. I am taking a long-term view. This is a new program.”
Col. Marshall Straus Scantlin, director of strategic initiatives, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), said the pandemic had hindered the ability to convene review panels, which are typically conducted in person. “It just takes time and we want to make sure we get it right,” he said.
Several people who tracked the hiring process said they worried that some qualified candidates had been turned away. And several civilian applicants were assigned one rank and subsequently downgraded, a reflection perhaps of institutional resistance to accepting newcomers at ranks that could upset career military officers. Two candidates have written to their Senators to complain.
Colonel DeJesse said that Army staff members told him it was sometimes difficult to equate civilian candidates’ seniority and work experiences with military rank, and that ranks assigned to civilian hires were being reviewed.
But he defended the quality of candidates selected so far. As for those rejected, he said some applicants had not addressed the specific requirements of the job in their résumés. Others had a good bit of experience, but not as outlined in the Army specifications, which require 48 months of work experience in a specialized field after receipt of an advanced degree.
In October, during a virtual meeting that included candidates for the cultural heritage assignments, Colonel DeJesse spoke to the frustration about how long the process was taking.
“We’re right there with you and we appreciate your patience,” he said. “It’s so important that you guys stick with it as best you can.”
The specialists are to be part of the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, which has its headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C. Colonel DeJesse, who did tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the unit might number as many as 33 specialists, “the highest number of monuments officers since the late 1940s,” he said.
He said several experts who were already reservists had transferred successfully into the role and some were already at work — for example, training units deploying to Central America, Africa and other regions about how to help countries identify and preserve their cultural heritage.
He said another 12 outside candidates had been selected and hoped the first five or so of those could finally get “pinned on” — be formally appointed — at an event scheduled at the Smithsonian in August.
Another twelve would have their applications considered by a review board in May, he said.
As they wait, candidates have been continuing to submit documentation and prepare for the Army physical test, which they will take once commissioned. (It involves six exercises — lifting a 60-pound weight three times; throwing a 10-pound medicine ball; doing consecutive push-ups for two minutes; sprinting and dragging and carrying a weight; leg tucks or planks; and a two-mile run.)
Reposted from Campus Safety Magazine
The head of security at Florida State University’s Strozier Library was arrested last week for allegedly stealing $500,000 worth of rare artifacts from a comic book collection.
Todd Peak, 38, who was employed by the university for eight years, has been charged with grand theft over $100,000, dealing with stolen property, and sale of stolen property through the Internet, reports FSU News.
Library employees reported the stolen items four months prior to Peak’s arrest. The comic books were part of the Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection which consists of comics and serials on superheroes, science fiction, fantasy and horror. Publications include Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
Police said Peak had been selling the stolen property to private buyers and comic book stores for two years. In total, 4,996 items were missing from the collection. Police have recovered 2,843 of the missing items so far.
Police conducted a search of Peak’s Google search history through a subpoena and discovered that between April 2020 and Jan. 2021, Peak made 448 searches for information about the stolen comic books, often looking for information about their value.
According to a police report, suspicions rose that Peak was selling stolen comics when buyers noticed he had rare comics that were listed as missing from FSU’s Special Collections & Archives.
Investigators spoke with several people who bought comics from Peak. One of the buyers, the owner of a comic book store, told investigators that it was “too great of a coincidence” that Peak worked at the library where the comic books were stolen.
Katie McCormick, the associate dean of libraries for special collections, told investigators that shortly after the theft, Peak asked her to review the inventory sheet for the collection and that he offered to help — something not typically associated with his job.
According to a report released following initial documentation of the crime, FSU Libraries is said to have conducted “an additional internal audit (based on professional practices for Special Collections and Archives) of security protocols and practices to improve the integrity of collections areas and help protect against future theft.”
The collection is housed in the sub-basement of the library and is kept behind a chain-link fence protected by a padlock, according to USA Today. Peak had one of four keys for the lock.
Anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of any of the stolen items is asked to contact FSUPD at (850) 644-1234.
The carpenters and the security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art had long been members of a union when in 2020, workers from departments across the museum — curators, conservators, educators and librarians — voted to create one of the largest museum unions in the country with nearly 250 members.
Workers at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, soon formed their own unions, part of a wave of labor organizing efforts at nearly two dozen art institutions where employees have created new collective bargaining units in the last three years.
Many of the workers who have recently joined unions have come from the curatorial, administrative and education staffs — white-collar office workers who often had not previously been represented by collective bargaining units.
The surge in organizing has even spawned a podcast, “Art and Labor,” whose producers say they “advocate for fair labor practices for artists, assistants, fabricators, docents, interns, registrars, janitors, writers, editors, curators, guards, performers, and anyone doing work for art & cultural institutions.”
And it comes, surprisingly, at a time when the national union membership rate matched historic lows, down significantly from the 1950s, when more than a third of American workers were part of a collective bargaining unit. Last year, according to the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the union membership rate for workers was 10.3 percent.
So why are museums the outliers in an otherwise diminished national labor movement?
Organizers say their efforts to convince white-collar arts workers to unionize have been fueled by increasing frustration over the pay gap between museum employees and executives, and that pandemic layoffs only heightened the concerns of some employees looking for better wages and job security.
“Museum workers realized that the human resource policies in terms of pay and benefits were oftentimes byzantine,” said Tom Juravich, a professor who researches labor movements at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “They realized that they were being treated more like servants to the elite.”
Mary Ceruti, the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which unionized in 2020, said that labor efforts are part of a larger push for change at institutions that are also being asked to diversify their work force and to feature a broader sweep of art.
“Unionizing has emerged as one way that staff are trying to affect institutional change,” said Ceruti. “Most museum leaders share the same goals as our staff organizers: to make museums places that both reflect and inspire our constituencies.”
Indeed, some have accused museums of being hypocritical when they champion progressivism in their art exhibitions and embrace new diversity policies in the wake of the 2020 George Floyd protests while challenging the efforts of workers to seek better pay and conditions.
“There is a residue of elite sensibility,” said Laura Raicovich, the former director of the Queens Museum, who recently wrote a book about why cultural institutions have become central to political debates around diversity and equity. “Museum directors have been trained to think of unions as organizations that don’t take into consideration the bigger picture.”
Maida Rosenstein, the president of Local 2110, a chapter of the United Automobile Workers union that represents 1,500 staff members from nearly 20 cultural institutions, said the expansion of the labor movement to a wider set of museum workers originated in the early 1970s when an organization called the Professional and Administrative Staff Association of the Museum of Modern Art, also known as PASTA, started picketing.
It was heralded at the time as the first self-organized union of professional employees at a privately financed museum. Organizers complained that staff were poorly managed and underpaid, leading to a strike in 1971, and another in 1973 that made the cover of Artforum magazine and popularized demands for transparency from museum trustees that are still echoed today.
“There used to be this narrative from museum management that workers were supposed to be very privileged,” said Rosenstein. “You were working for prestige. Your expectations were supposed to be low.”
PASTA didn’t immediately spark a labor movement in the art world, but it became a touchstone 50 years later when more than 3,000 cultural workers in 2019 began to anonymously share their salaries through an online pay transparency spreadsheet. Employees at the New Museum began organizing around this time, and started comparing their wages to the executive salaries disclosed in the financial reports that museums and other nonprofits must publish.
“It was egregious at the New Museum when we started organizing and some of my colleagues were making around $35,000 a year,” said Dana Kopel, a former employee at the museum who now helps other nonprofits unionize.
Lisa Phillips, the director of New Museum, has previously said that “staff and board are united around our purpose and values and we’ve accomplished so much working together.”
A contract later established minimum salaries ranging from $46,000 to $68,500 alongside increased paid time off and reduced employee contributions to health care costs. Unionization at the New Museum helped pave the way for organizers who called out pay differentials at institutions like the Guggenheim and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Opinion surveys of American workers suggest labor unions are more popular than they have been, with a 2018 study claiming that 48 percent of nonunion employees would join a union if given the opportunity. And new labor organizing is evident on college campuses, inside Amazon warehouses and at Starbucks locations.
Though organizing efforts at many museums have been successful, agreement on contract terms has not always been swift. Museums have said that multimillion-dollar losses of revenue during the pandemic shutdowns have impeded their ability to make long-term deals.
So nearly a year after voting to unionize, more than 100 workers at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts formed a picket line outside their institution in November to grab the attention of museum leaders who have not yet agreed to a contract. More than two years after the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles voluntarily recognized its employee union, organizers are also waiting for a contract and have complained that officials rejected their proposals of higher wages and other benefits. And at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, organizers are also locked in bargaining nearly 18 months after its unionization.
“I naïvely thought that you win an election and most of the work gets done,” said Adam Rizzo, the president of the Philadelphia museum’s union, “But the work gets harder as you negotiate with management and continue to do the weekly outreach.”
Norman Keyes, a spokesman for the Philadelphia museum, said the institution is “committed to reaching a collective bargaining agreement that achieves the best outcome for our staff while sustaining the museum for generations to come.” Amy Hood, a spokeswoman for MOCA, said her museum is “close to finalizing a favorable agreement.”
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston released a statement that said in part: “We continue productive dialogue with the union and look forward to arriving at an inaugural collective bargaining agreement.”
Nevertheless, some workers within the museum industry have claimed that their employers are stalling negotiations to demoralize their bargaining units; others have gone further to accuse officials of retaliating against staff members who support unionization.
Workers involved in union organizing at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Museum of Natural History have argued that they received negative performance reviews because of their union advocacy.
In Chicago, organizers have filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the institution on behalf of a worker.
Katie Rahn, a spokeswoman for the Art Institute, said it could not respond to the allegations of retaliation because there is a policy to respect the privacy of personnel matters. “We look forward to working with the union through the collective bargaining process toward an agreement that meets the needs of all parties,” she said.
At the Museum of Natural History, an anthropologist, Jacklyn Grace Lacey, said she was fired after organizing to expand the union membership of District Council 37, which has two union shops at the museum, one representing guards and another representing clerical workers. Those shops together comprise roughly 250 members; District Council 37 is working to add a third local that could include dozens of employees to the union ranks with titles like curator and scientist. Last week, the union filed for arbitration with the museum over Lacey’s firing.
Anne Canty, a spokeswoman for the museum, said in a statement that “The museum respects the right of our staff to decide whether to vote to unionize, and we are hearing many viewpoints from staff as they inform themselves on this issue.” The statement added that “Jacklyn Lacey’s termination is entirely separate from the current union organizing effort.”
Many museum employees who have hitched their futures to collective organizing say they are optimistic that unions will protect them in an uncertain world.
“We want equity baked into our contract,” said Sheila Majumdar, an editor and union organizer at the Art Institute of Chicago, which plans on having its first bargaining meeting in spring.
“We have gotten further away from the myth of the cultural worker just being grateful to have a job in this sector,” she explained, adding that younger workers have a better understanding of their value. “We are the ones who make museums.”
You come into your office, juggling your gym bag and a cup of hot coffee, and boot up your laptop to an ominous red and black screen that announces:
“All your files and documents have been encrypted!”
Congratulations, you’ve been hacked.
Last week the New York Times published an article highlighting the rise in ransomware attacks: incidents in which hackers lock down entire computer networks and demand payments to let users recover their data and regain control of their systems. The author cites data documenting a 41 percent increase in ransomware attacks from 2018 to 2019, for a total of over 205,000 reported attacks last year. The average ransom payment jumped to over $190 thousand. And, as the article notes, these numbers probably underrepresent the true costs of such attacks, as organization often don’t want to publicize that they have been hacked.
To that point, I know of at least three museums that have been the targets of ransomware attacks, but so far none have been willing to go on the record about their experiences. Evidently ransomware is the digital equivalent of STDs—but the stigma of (unwarranted) shame attached being a victim is misplaced and counterproductive. By sharing information, museums can become better able to defend themselves and recover from such attacks.
Meanwhile, I’ve compiled some facts on ransomware drawing on free web resources for training and response. Each of the sources excerpted below provide a variety of advice and resources. Take the time to explore them and bookmark useful information—hopefully before an attack takes place!
What is ransomware?
“Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to a system, device, or file until a ransom is paid. This is achieved when the ransomware encrypts files on the infected system (crypto ransomware), threatens to erase files (wiper ransomware), or blocks system access (locker ransomware) for the victim. The ransom amount and contact information for the cyber threat actor (CTA) is typically included in a ransom note that appears on the victim’s screen after their files are locked or encrypted. Sometimes the CTA only includes contact information in the note and will likely attempt to negotiate the ransom amount once they are contacted.” (Source: A Security Primer—Ransomware, Cybersecurity.org)
How does ransomware infect computers?
“Here are some of the ways computers and mobile devices can be infected:
(Source: McAfee. See also their 2017 white paper Understanding Ransomware and Strategies to Defeat It.)
Is my museum at risk?
Yes. Hackers are targeting a wide variety of businesses, large and small, as well as individual users. Dozens of cities have been hit by ransomware attacks—and if your museum is part of a municipality, your data may be compromised as well. Keep in mind that university museums inherit the risk of their parent organizations, too. (Last year Regis and Stevens Universities suffered devastating attacks.)
How can I prevent ransomware attacks?
(Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Cyber Awareness System, Protecting Against Ransomware.)
Are there training programs that can help prevent successful attacks?
Yes. The Alliance uses KnowBe4 for its security awareness training. There are a number of similar programs like AwareGO and Mimecast. All programs follow a similar framework, reoccurring short video training sessions mixed in with periodic assessments. Administrators can use the results to gauge the organization’s risk and impact of training program. Costs are based on the number of users enrolled in the program and start as low as a couple dollars per month. Since threats are evolving it is important to view this training as on-going and not a one-time rubber stamp.
I’ve been attacked by ransomware—what’s the first thing I should do?
The BackBlaze Blog recommends that your first step should be to isolate the infection:
“The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.
Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.”
Your museum’s IT department or security office may have a procedure in place to respond to ransomware attacks. This may include shutting down and isolating other devices that may have been connected to the infected computer and ensuring that your backup data (you have backup data, right?) is offline and secured.
Where can we get help with responding to a ransomware attack?
Many firms offer to help with recovery of data after a ransomware attack. Be cautious if you decide to engage such a firm—an investigation by Pro Publica revealed that some companies that promise to recover encrypted data simply pay the hackers and pass the charge on to the victim. I have not found a credible, independent review of reputable recovery services. Let me know if you have any source to share.
Should we pay the ransom?
Opinions vary, but many cybersecurity experts (including Lee Mathews, writing for Forbes) argue that you should never pay a ransomware ransom. For one thing, as Mathews points out, only 19% of ransomware targets who pay the ransom actually get their data back. The NYT article I cite at the beginning of this article makes the case that paying ransoms will fuel more attacks, by “giving attackers more confidence that they will get paid.”
Can we recover our data without paying a ransom?
Maybe. Even as hackers create new ransomware programs, programmers race to create encryption programs to free locked data. You can work with a forensics and data recovery program to try to recover what you can. That said, your best recovery strategy is to have a good backup system.
Should we report the attack?
The Department of Homeland Security asks that you report ransomware attacks immediately to CISA at www.us-cert.gov/report, a local FBI Field Office, or Secret Service Field Office.
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