INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from The Peninsula
Qatar National Library has taken action to combat antiquities trafficking and illicit circulation of documentary heritage in the Middle East, North Africa and neighboring countries, according to Minister of State and President of Qatar National Library, H E Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kawari.
Speaking at a special webinar antiquities trafficking yesterday, H E Dr.Al Kawari said that the Library continuously monitor to find antiquities trafficking and take action against the activity together with regional and global partners.
‘What is Antiquities Trafficking?’ webinar discussed the structures of supply chains for the illicit trade of cultural items, identified key stakeholders involved in the criminal practice, and explored the source, transit routes and market countries of the illegal activity.
“Trafficking and smuggling of antiquities and artifacts in the region is threatening its cultural heritage,” said Dr. Al Kawari.
He also shed light to online antiquities trafficking and said that social media is being the ‘wrong hot bed’ for such activities.
“In recent times we have seen an increase in the online illicit trade of antiquities. Lately the social media, especially Facebook groups have become the wrong hot bed for antiquities trafficking,” said Dr. Al Kawari.
“Illegally trading such heritage items is piracy of nations. We at Qatar National Library believe in role of intellectuals in the world. We urge them to take more responsibility to address this serious issue of antiquities trafficking. We urge the international community to deal and eliminate such activities,” he added.
The webinar is part of the Himaya Project Lecture Series, an initiative the Library launched to counter the trafficking and illegal circulation of documentary heritage in the MENA region and neighboring countries. Himaya engages international agencies and regional organizations to protect heritage artifacts and thwart the trafficking of such items.
The webinar featured Director of Distinctive Collections, Qatar National Library, Stephane Ipert, Veronica Costarelli, Project Manager, Cross-Border Syrian Emergency Response with IOM and a post-crisis antiquity trafficking researcher, Post-doctoral research fellow in cultural heritage and conflicts, Norwegian Institute in Rome, University of Oslo, and Dr. Samuel Andrew Hardy. The event was moderated by Maxim Nasra, Book Conservation Specialist at the Library.
The two-day webinar is held mainly for cultural heritage experts, scholars, academics and law enforcement officials. It will conclude today.
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Reposted from AAM
In 2024, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block (TMA) in Arizona will celebrate its centennial anniversary. From its humble beginnings as a community gallery and lecture space to the museum’s formation in 1975, TMA has served Southern Arizona through engaging exhibitions and educational opportunities.
In preparing for this important milestone, TMA is affirming its commitment to relevance and equity by fostering connections to its audiences and local communities. In envisioning the next 100 years through the lens of a global pandemic and calls for racial equity, TMA is confronting urgent, existential questions: How can we sustain and enhance services to our audiences? How can the museum more proactively and fervently support community partnerships? How can we facilitate community-driven initiatives? How can TMA reimagine its structure and practices to achieve equity and inclusion and foster sustainable and systemic change?
Along with the region’s diverse demographics, including Latinx, immigrant, refugee, and Indigenous communities, TMA is situated on the original territories of the O’odham and an hour’s drive north of the US-Mexico border. This unique context pushes the museum to build access creatively and collaboratively for its communities, which it is doing through the institution-wide Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Plan.
TMA’s focus on inclusion, diversity, equity, and access didn’t start with the creation of the IDEA Plan, however. First, the museum assessed its community engagement history. Beginning in 2016, after leadership changes, it evaluated its outreach to traditionally underserved communities; identified disparities in exhibition development and artworks in the collection; and addressed internal challenges, such as diversifying the museum’s board.
In 2017, the museum created a Department of Community Engagement to integrate a broad range of community stakeholders within TMA’s collections, exhibitions, and programs through bidirectional collaborations and community partnerships. One example, “Museum as Sanctuary,” founded in 2010, works with organizations serving immigrants and refugees to highlight the benefits of creative expression and language acquisition through art-making and in-gallery activities. “Museum as Sanctuary” participants have authored labels, exhibited artwork, participated in focus groups about the future of the museum, and supported program development and expansion.
Challenging traditional internal power dichotomies, the department has had a profound impact on curatorial practices while reinforcing the principles of IDEA decision-making in programmatic endeavors and community-based practices. The department has leveraged partnerships and conducted facilitated conversations and convenings that have led to prioritizing interpretation and exhibition development that is reflective and inclusive of our local community.
Simultaneously, the CEO worked with the board’s committee on trustees to expand its criteria and rationale to include the important role trustees play in helping the museum become inclusive, diverse, and community-centered. To avoid the historical challenges of “tokenism” on museum boards, TMA established new committees, including the community initiatives committee, which serves as a bridge between the institution and local Indigenous tribes, Latinx, and communities of color.
Beginning in early 2018, TMA drafted a new three-year strategic plan, which was adopted in December 2019. The Strategic Plan commits to IDEA across all its strategic priorities, including economic stability, programmatic focus, audience experience, and messaging.
Although TMA was focusing on programs and exhibitions that were culturally relevant and rooted in equitable access, it was clear that in order to realize systemic change, TMA needed to ensure a shared baseline understanding of and framework for IDEA, including definitions, principles, strategies, and metrics. So in the fall of 2019, TMA began creating an IDEA Plan, with help from the board’s community initiatives committee and community representatives recommended by the curator of community engagement. TMA’s board of trustees approved the IDEA Plan in July 2020. (See the “A Trustee’s Perspective” sidebar at left for more on the board’s role.)
In order to represent, activate, and advocate for all Southern Arizona communities, the IDEA process requires ongoing reflection, training, and discussion. To achieve the plan’s principles of relevancy, community, respect, and multivocality, they had to be instilled within the museum’s collection, exhibitions, programs, and people, including the board of trustees, staff, and volunteer groups. The plan also had to be uniquely tailored to address both the internal and external challenges we faced. Internal challenges included a lack of cultural competencies across the institution; a lack of diversity in the museum workforce, volunteers, and trustees; and a history of interdepartmental silos. Externally, TMA sought to become more relevant to audiences and bridge the historical disconnect between the museum and its communities.
The IDEA Plan defines the four foundational principles as follows:
We stand for RELEVANCY
All individuals have the right to access art and the museum, including its collection, programs, and exhibitions, in a relevant and meaningful way.
We stand for COMMUNITY
The museum will listen and respond to the needs of the communities it serves and strive to be an asset to them, existing as a vital community anchor. As a space for civic dialogue and social and cultural participation, TMA aims to improve the well-being of its audiences.
We stand for RESPECT
The museum will be a source of lifelong learning by ensuring that all visitors have access to a relevant, engaging experience that connects them to the artwork in ways that are respectful of the visitor’s expertise, references, and experiences.
We stand for MULTIVOCALITY
Programs and interpretation will honor and amplify the inherent value of multiple points of view, and the museum will encourage open-ended experiences and inquiry-based dialogue.
These principles guide TMA in representing regional identity, building collaborations with communities, increasing cultural competencies, and broadening access so that all visitors can connect art to their lives. Additionally, they provided museum staff with IDEA philosophies to drive decision-making and reinforce an inclusive and equitable work culture.
TMA’s IDEA Plan was developed by the museum’s community initiatives committee, led by John-Peter Wilhite, trustee and committee chair; and Marianna Pegno, curator of community engagement, with guidance and recommendations from Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Jon and Linda Ender Director and chief executive officer; Robert Alpaugh, strategic planning consultant; and Patricia Lannes, diversity and inclusion consultant, as well as TMA staff recommendations.
To break the traditional cycle of exhibition development and instead become a responsive and collaborative institution, we needed to incorporate IDEA philosophies into curatorial practices and, more broadly, the permanent collection. Staff strengthened long-term systemic and systematic community engagement approaches in which stakeholders identify relatable issues, which then inform the museum’s approach to its programs, exhibitions, and collections. These include strategies to connect or bridge the museum more intentionally to its local communities/audiences and reinforce the museum’s commitment to IDEA through community-based programs, multivocal approaches to exhibition development and interpretation, and regular and sustained conversations beyond the institutional walls.
With the support of a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, TMA is exploring innovative approaches to exhibition development that are rooted in local communities and that amplify the complex and unique cultural diversity of Southern Arizona. For example, the development of the Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art, which connects contemporary and ancient visual traditions from over 3,000 years of Latin American history, involved sustained conversations with community members who offered feedback on themes, wrote exhibit labels, and supported outreach.
And we are expanding this approach in an exhibition of the museum’s Indigenous Arts collection by involving community expertise from inception to implementation and beyond. Together, curators, cultural liaisons, and tribal representatives from across the region are selecting artworks, identifying themes, and developing multivocal approaches to recontextualize the Indigenous Arts collection.
The next phase of implementation will focus on the application of IDEA principles and strategies in developing department-specific action items—ensuring that each department has ownership and agency in the implementation process. Additional short-term projects, to be accomplished over the next six to 12 months, include:
We believe a commitment to IDEA will enable TMA to build internal capacities, create financial sustainability, and set the foundation for an institution that can meet its own, and the community’s, needs for the next 100 years.
Real systemic change means proactively addressing reactionary situations, setbacks, and evolving needs. The work is tough and never-ending, and it will entail no shortage of difficult conversations and decisions. However, now more than ever museums must be nimble, responsive, and inclusive to meet the needs of our local communities, address injustice and inequality, and build a more relevant future.
John-Peter Wilhite, a Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) trustee, shares why he saw IDEA as an institutional priority.
When I became a TMA trustee in 2018, it was due to the changes I saw happening at TMA. I knew the board was predominately white and I’d be the only Black member, but I saw it as an opportunity; I wanted to support the museum in becoming more inclusive of communities in Southern Arizona. Once I was officially on the board, I listened to how programs were developed in the past while simultaneously seeing where the board was in terms of understanding inclusion and equity.
The process of working with the IDEA strategic planning team, comprised of board members and staff, was tough at times. We had difficult conversations about the importance of the IDEA concepts being woven through all aspects of the plan, and some on the team did not understand why that was important. We leaned into those conversations and made it happen. Using my skills in communication, we found common language and built a collective understanding in order to commit to these practices holistically. Next, a small team of us (the community initiatives committee) had to create the actual IDEA work plan, which detailed the ways we were going to implement the concepts from the strategic plan and begin creating change in the programming and makeup of staff and board.
Finally, with the strategic plan approved by the board of trustees in December 2019 and the IDEA work plan completed, we put the final IDEA Plan before the board for approval in July 2020. I was concerned there would be some pushback, but to my surprise, the full board unanimously agreed to the document.
Now we have the hard work to do—we have to constantly check in and continuously assess ourselves. If we just have the plan but aren’t doing the work to move forward, then we aren’t truly committed to prioritizing IDEA.
Facing Change: Insights from the American Alliance of Museums’ Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion Working Group, AAM, 2018 aam-us.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/AAM-DEAI-Working-Group-Full-Report-2018.pdf
CCLI National Landscape Study: The State of DEAI Practices in Museums, Cecilia Garibay and Jeanne Marie Olson, Cultural Competence Learning Institute, 2020 community.astc.org/ccli/about-us/landscape-study
Tucson Museum of Art IDEA Plan, 2020 tucsonmuseumofart.org/inclusion-diversity-equity-access/
Tucson Museum of Art 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, 2019 tucsonmuseumofart.org/strategic-planning/
Reposted from Artnet News
Boston authorities have arrested and charged 48-year-old Robert Viens, a resident of Randolph, Massachusetts, for smashing a glass door of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum last weekend.
Police responded to reports of an attempted break-in at the notorious museum at around 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. According to a spokeswoman, “the person made no attempt to enter the building” and fled the scene on a bicycle.
The suspect shattered a glass door on the Palace Road side of the building using a “hard object” and then throwing something inside, prompting the bomb squad to respond. (They found no explosives.) Apparently, what was thrown into the art museum was actually a blanket-wrapped painting that had been stolen from the nearby Arden Gallery on Newbury Street during a break-in on January 11.
The Boston Police Department posted an update on the investigation confirming that Viens had been located. He was arraigned on Tuesday at the Roxbury District Court on a slew of charges on behalf of both the Gardner and Arden Gallery, including breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony; wanton destruction of property; and possession, transportation or use of a hoax device or substance, according to NBC Boston.
Viens, of course, isn’t the first person to breach the Gardner’s walls. In 1990, the museum was the site of the most valuable art heist in the nation’s history when thieves made off with some $500 million worth of paintings, including those by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
In 2019, a man suspected of being involved in the heist, 52-year-old David Turner, was released from prison for a separate robbery. Turner, despite being offered a more lenient sentence if he copped to any information about the case, denied any knowledge or involvement.
The two men believed by many to have orchestrated the daring heist—George Reissfelder and Lenny DiMuzio—have both died. The historic crime, which involved posing as police officers to infiltrate the museum and tying up security guards, remains unsolved to this day. Empty frames hang in the museum today to signify the loss.
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
As an essential business, United Facilities has remained open during the coronavirus pandemic. The warehouse, distribution, and logistics company, which is headquartered in East Peoria, Illinois, made changes to protect employees from the potential spread of the virus, including using enhanced cleaning procedures, altering workers’ schedules, and increasing fresh air flow.
To find out how the 400 employees felt about these changes, company leaders asked managers to conduct interviews to measure workers’ sentiments.
“We recognize these are special times, so we had a special survey for COVID-19,” says Tammie Rogers, the company’s senior HR generalist. The survey asked about the company’s response to COVID-19, the altered processes and whether those processes made employees feel more comfortable about coming to work.
“Managers administered it in one-on-one conversations with the employees,” explains HR director Renna Bliss, SHRM-CP. The responses were uploaded to a SharePoint site, along with the managers’ summaries and recommended actions.
The information is visible to HR and executives, Bliss says, but managers are tasked with making recommendations because “we believe it’s better for the data to be interpreted at the local level.”
Adds Rogers: “Employees really appreciated the managers taking the time to ask.”
Measuring employee sentiment and gathering feedback is more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in widespread anxiety and a lot of dramatic workplace changes, including large swaths of employees who began working from home. Employee engagement, which had been fairly static for the last 20 years, reached an all-time high of 40 percent in July, according to a Gallup survey of 3,127 full- and part-time U.S. workers.
Why? Some say the primary reason is employees who were disengaged got laid off en masse, but others believe the increase is the result of improved communication between employees and their leaders. For companies to maintain a motivated, productive workforce, organizations need to find the best methods to gather and interpret employee feedback, including from remote workers, and make changes accordingly, experts say.
Employee engagement is often used as a catch-all term for employee job satisfaction, motivation, productivity, and retention. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. Job satisfaction, productivity, and retention can all be affected by an employee’s level of engagement.
Some of those elements are easy to measure, such as retention rate; others, such as employee motivation, are harder to gauge.
To make the most of employee engagement efforts, organizational leaders must be clear about their primary goal, experts say. Do they want to reduce turnover? Improve productivity? Increase employee enthusiasm?
Before conducting an employee engagement survey, determine “the questions that are most relevant in the current climate and aligned to strategic priorities,” says Genevieve Coleman, vice president of global talent management at Stryker, a medical technology company based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with 40,000 employees worldwide.
Then, consider the timing. Is it wise to measure employee engagement during a pandemic? Absolutely, HR professionals say.
“Collecting survey data in ‘bad’ times is actually more or equally as important as [doing so] during ‘good’ times,” says Chris Roederer, senior vice president and chief HR officer at Tampa General Hospital, a teaching hospital that employs 8,500 in Tampa, Florida.
The hospital last May conducted a pulse survey—which is a short, targeted survey—about COVID-19. The result?
“The single most important action step was to create a daily communication plan,” Roederer says. “Team members were fearful for their health, their jobs, compensation, and family members. We addressed all of those issues and concerns on a daily basis.”
As part of its response, the hospital added COVID-19 updates to its daily safety meetings and provided extra pay to those employees working with COVID-19 patients, he says.
Regularly scheduled employee engagement surveys are mainstays for measuring employee sentiments, but most HR professionals gather employee feedback in a variety of ways. Those include:
Annual surveys. At Amplify Credit Union, a financial cooperative with 202 employees in Austin, Texas, the HR team collects feedback each year through an online survey.
“At one point, we were using SurveyMonkey and conducting our survey in-house,” says Jenny Voigt, SHRM-CP, senior HR generalist at the credit union. “That worked well enough, but there are always those who will be concerned about the anonymity of an in-house survey, and unless you have some statisticians on your team to help you correlate each question with employee engagement, it’s pretty hard to know what to focus on because each question carries the same weight.”
Pulse surveys. Unlike annual employee engagement surveys, which tend to have dozens of questions on various subjects, pulse surveys seek input on specific topics by asking five to 10 questions.
“This year has been an unprecedented challenge, and creating forums to collect employee feedback has been more important than ever,” says Coleman, who notes that Stryker deployed a pulse survey in the spring with a second one planned for the fall. “Pulse surveys allow us to gather employee feedback on a targeted set of questions that address topics most relevant to the current climate.”
Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and director of its Center for Human Resources, recommends fielding pulse surveys because they can be created quickly and the response rates tend to be higher than for longer surveys.
Focus groups. Cappelli says focus groups are good for gathering data on complex questions, such as whether to implement a wellness plan.
At Stryker, Coleman says, “we collect employee feedback using a combination of quantitative surveys, listening sessions, formal and informal focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and ongoing dialogue with leaders.”
Internal social media platforms. Plante Moran, a professional services firm with more than 3,000 employees in Grand Rapids, Michigan, conducts several surveys and individual check-ins with new staff during their first year. However, the company mainly relies on its intranet for collecting feedback.
“We have group chats and threads that staff leaders participate in daily,” says HR director Diana Verdun. “This is a great way to understand how our staff is feeling and dealing with different situations in real time, rather than limiting feedback to certain moments during the year.
“Some may worry, especially in times like this, about asking for feedback and coming off as out of touch or insensitive,” she continues, “but since our continuous feedback model is a part of our culture, it works well in good times and in challenging times.”
Leader accessibility. Plante Moran also holds town halls and small-group staff meetings. “These smaller sessions encourage an open dialogue,” Verdun says. “We have our team partner system, where leaders in each office are assigned a small group of staff to develop.”
Direct access to decision makers can make a big impact. At Tampa General Hospital, a registered nurse’s comment to the CEO, who regularly walks the campus to talk to employees, prompted a significant and beneficial change. The nurse complained that the hospital bedsheets repeatedly came untucked, creating safety issues for the clinicians and patient care techs. IV lines got tangled in the sheets, and patients became uncomfortable.
“As a result of that situation where the team member expressed her concerns, the entire hospital—1,007 beds—transitioned to fitted bedsheets, beginning in the ICU,” Roederer recalls.
Stay interviews. After United Facilities’ HR team was asked to help slow the constant turnover among forklift drivers, Bliss decided stay interviews might be part of the solution. In the first year of implementation, the company reduced turnover at three locations. The reduction created a significant cost savings, too. The HR department discovered that losing one forklift driver cost the company more than $11,000 and that 43 percent of departing drivers left in the first 90 days.
The HR team expanded the use of individual stay interviews to all employees to learn the employees’ greatest needs and build individualized stay plans.
“We collect one-on-one feedback after their first week of employment, after the first month of employment, and then on an annual basis,” Bliss says.
Managers are coached to ask employees, “What can I do to help? What would you like to see more of from me?” Employees can state what they want. Even if they don’t want the manager to do anything differently, they know the supervisor is available and listening to them, she says.
Dick Finnegan, author of The Power of Stay Interviews for Engagement and Retention (SHRM, 2018) and CEO of C-Suite Analytics, a consultancy headquartered in Longwood, Florida, says, “The best thing about stay interviews is they lead to the creation of solutions. Many companies think surveys are the same or better, but surveys just give you data. They give the best employees’ input the same weight as someone you will fire tomorrow. Top performers do the work of their job plus four others. You can’t lose your top performers. If you don’t use stay interviews, you won’t know what they think.”
Stay interviews provide United Facilities with a better sense of employees’ thoughts and feelings than generic employee surveys do because the supervisors also get a sense of tone, inflection, passion, body language, and other verbal and nonverbal cues during the in-person meetings, Bliss says.
“By gaining involvement at the manager level, we get more engagement,” she says. “In one of our locations, several employees asked about advancement opportunities. The conversation afforded us the ability to probe their specific interests and provide additional training to prepare them for the next steps. In January 2020, three people were promoted to new positions based on their qualifications and expressed interest.”
In a more recent case, a stay interview revealed that one employee’s work schedule was no longer a fit for her, so a shift change was approved.
Some employers might argue that stay interviews are too time-consuming, but Bliss says that’s a false assumption.
“It’s a time investment,” she concedes. “For some employees, it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. For others, it’s much longer. But when we think about how much time we spend running ads and interviewing to replace an employee who leaves, it’s a no-brainer for us.”
The best employee engagement surveys are precisely targeted.
“Don’t ask every question under the sun,” Voigt says. “This is truly a case where fewer, focused questions give you more than asking every question in the book.
“When possible, give your survey company the demographics of all the employees invited to participate in the survey, rather than asking demographic questions in the survey itself,” she continues. “This saves time on the part of your team members, and it makes them more comfortable with the process. But it also ensures you have the data you need to be able to see if the issues the company is having are stemming from a particular department, level of tenure or minority group.”
Voigt recommends using an external company to administer the survey. “Don’t be afraid to budget for and use a consultant to help you work through the results,” she adds.
The more personal the methods for gathering data are, the more likely the data will be to yield insightful comments.
“Some feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with a manager or team partner with whom they have developed a trusting relationship,” Verdun says. “For others, our internal social media platform provides a 24/7 option to share ideas and suggestions. Each company is unique, so how people prefer to provide and gather feedback should be centered around what’s conducive for the business.
“Keep in mind, surveys are just one tool,” she says. “They may work well, but they aren’t the only method. Open lines of communication are also important.”
It’s critical, as well, to look for ways to take action based on the results.
“Look for actionable items and track those action items,” says United Facilities’ Rogers. “To create a trusting relationship, show you’re actually taking steps based on the feedback.”
In turbulent times like these, employees crave interpersonal communication. HR professionals need to create environments and opportunities for employees to share their desires and difficulties in personalized ways, and then respond to the feedback in a way that makes the employees feel heard. When this happens, the organization’s leaders will build trust, which is the foundation of any successful workplace.
The biggest mistake companies make is launching employee engagement surveys and then taking no action to address the results.
"If companies are just checking a box to say they've done a survey, then they might as well stop wasting everyone's time," says Jenny Voigt, SHRM-CP, senior HR generalist at Amplify Credit Union. "Nothing kills engagement like asking for an opinion and then not acknowledging the response with action."
In a 2018 LeadershipIQ survey, 59 percent of HR executives admitted their organizations took no action or only easy actions based on employee engagement surveys.
"There may be no quicker way for staff to lose faith in leadership than when they've been asked for feedback but nothing changes," says Diana Verdun, HR director at professional services firm Plante Moran.
Here are some other tips for fielding more-effective surveys:
Don't ask too many questions. The longer the survey is, the less likely employees will complete it, which means there will be little to no data to analyze. "We've used a number of different tools over the years, some of which were 50 to 70 questions long, which got a little fatiguing," Voigt says.
According to an OfficeVibe study, 20 percent of people abandon surveys if they take more than seven minutes to complete.
Don't assume a low-scoring area is important to employees. Voigt cautions HR professionals not to get "sucked into focusing on the areas that have the most negative response. Those may or may not be areas that are actually impacting employee engagement, and companies waste a lot of time, effort, and money addressing issues that really aren't important to their team members."
Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Verdun advises HR professionals to take their time coming up with viable response plans. "The desire for immediate action can cause organizations to react instead of having a measured approach to implementing changes," she says. "By taking a measured approach, we can better evaluate feedback, gauging how an issue will affect people, and use continuous communication to let people know we're looking into these matters."
Reposted from The Art Newspaper
One of the biggest challenges for police and customs officials in combating the illegal trade in looted antiquities is in identifying stolen objects. While drugs or weapons are readily identifiable as illegal imports, stolen antiquities can be passed off as modern copies or legitimate imports if they are accompanied by convincing documentation. Without expert archaeologists on the spot, it is hard for law enforcers to know the difference.
German information technology experts are developing an app to help them, and a prototype may be ready for practical trials by the middle of the year, says Martin Steinebach, the head of media security and IT forensics at the Fraunhofer Institute in Darmstadt. The new app, known as KIKU, uses machine learning—a subset of artificial intelligence (AI)—to identify an object from photos and to help to ascertain whether it may have been illegally looted or excavated from an archaeological site.
The technology is similar to other image-recognition software such as Google Cloud’s Vision and can be operated on a smartphone, Steinebach says. Police or customs officers take photographs of a suspect object from a variety of angles, guided by the app to ensure adequate lighting and the correct perspectives.
The photos are then sent to KIKU’s deep-learning network, which searches for similar artefacts and relevant information from archaeologists—such as place of origin and date. This provides an initial basis for law enforcers to judge whether the item might be looted. In a second stage, the app compares the object with police databases of stolen cultural property; Interpol’s, for instance, contains more than 51,000 stolen objects from 134 countries. If there is a match, the app sounds an alarm.
Described by German Culture Minister Monika Grütters as an “innovative, sustainable and practical contribution” to the fight against the illegal trade in cultural heritage, KIKU has won funding of up to €500,000 from a government programme to promote AI technology in a project running until the end of this year. The Fraunhofer Institute, one of the biggest scientific research organisations in the world, is developing KIKU in co-operation with CoSee, a Darmstadt-based software company.
In 2018, Interpol registered more than 91,000 stolen items of cultural heritage and almost 223,000 items seized by law enforcement agencies worldwide. The starting point for KIKU was a German government-funded research project, ILLICID, which examined the trade in ancient cultural objects in Germany. Among the findings was that investigating agencies and supervisory authorities lack the expertise to address the illicit trafficking in ancient artefacts.
“It is not currently possible to efficiently monitor the trade or to appropriately enforce existing and/or new due diligence requirements governing the handling of ancient cultural objects,” the report says. Effective technological tools could “significantly relieve the burden on customs authorities, experts and investigatory agencies”.
KIKU uses the data and images provided by archaeologists at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for around 2,500 antiquities in the Berlin collections. But that is a relatively small pool of images and it requires many more, says Steinebach: “At least ten times that” is needed. “The app can learn distinctive scripts or shapes. If we have enough examples, the app can recognise them. The more images there are, the better it works.” In addition, the team is using “transfer learning” from existing networks and adding artefacts from online museum databases and catalogues.
As an example of how the app could work, Steinebach says that if an object is imported with forged provenance documents, it may be possible to prove they are fake if KIKU enables customs officials to identify the object correctly. “Say the documents claim it is from the 16th century but the app identifies it as dating from 600BC—that gives customs officials a very good starting point,” he says. The app is not designed to detect forgeries, he adds.
One key challenge is the lack of existing records for recently excavated antiquities. However, as long as an object bears a resemblance to other known items of the same epoch, the app should be able to identify its place of origin and age, Steinebach says. “But you never know what might have been excavated; it could be something the like of which has never been seen before.”
Steinebach doesn’t expect that the app will eradicate the need for archaeology experts in identifying objects any time soon; rather, it will serve as an initial reference for law enforcers, who would then need to contact an expert on the basis of KIKU’s findings for a detailed evaluation. But he adds that the more KIKU is used, the better it will become at identifying objects, thanks to the machine-learning technology.
Could having the pilot snoozing in the cockpit make your flight safer? Studies report that short naps can improve a pilot’s alertness, especially when shifts stretch across multiple time zones and long hours.
Recent research on consumer opinions shows that the American public is leery of this, but one study found that pilots who took short, 40-minute naps (called controlled rest in position or CRIP when in the cockpit) had faster reaction times and higher subjective alertness.
Pilot fatigue leads to slower reaction times, reduced attentiveness, and impaired memory, which could result in inaccurate flying, forgetting routine tasks, poor decision making, and accidents.
Long shifts with few breaks have similar effects on professionals in other high-concentration roles, such as physicians, first responders, and security operations center (SOC) personnel. While midflight napping remains a decision for aviation regulators, security leaders have many options to relieve stress for SOC operators and security personnel.
“Global security operations center (GSOC) managers need to consider the neuroscience of the brain and what we can reasonably expect people to be able to do,” says Sarah Powell, director of emergency management at Temple University. “It’s a common job description for a GSOC operator: you must be able to multitask in a crisis. And that’s just something human brains aren’t wired to be able to do in a stress response.”
Stress responses are different from typical overwork or fatigue; a stressor triggers physical and psychological changes that together form the “fight or flight” response: faster breathing, quickened pulse, and tense muscles. In the short term, the stress response heightens alertness, but prolonged exposure to these high-stress situations—particularly in conjunction with long shift lengths—eventually takes a toll on productivity, efficiency, and retention, Powell says. Any tasks involving the prefrontal cortex of the brain—the area responsible for reasoning, rationality, and executive decision making—will be hampered by the stress response.
Employee retention can also be impacted. Working in SOCs is so stressful that 65 percent of operators are considering changing careers, according to a June 2019 Ponemon Institute study, Improving the Effectiveness of the SOC. More than 70 percent of the IT security practitioners surveyed said that the increasing workload SOC staff face was causing burnout. Leading factors behind this stress included the around-the-clock on-call culture, the inability to recruit and retain expert personnel, the inability to capture actionable intelligence, the lack of resources, and the “complexity and chaos” within the SOC.
Nearly 50 percent of respondents said their SOC teams would benefit from stress management programs and psychological counseling, and 39 percent said they would like to have better support and recognition from senior leadership.
The task saturation inherent in SOCs eventually runs up against a wall; operators have only so much bandwidth to devote to different tasks, especially in a stressful situation, Powell says.
“You need to find ways to alleviate task saturation and reliance on the prefrontal cortex,” she adds. This could include automating some basic tasks, devising checklists for operators to follow, and practicing scenarios to develop a reflexive, natural response to high-pressure situations.
In the Ponemon study, two-thirds of respondents said automating the SOC workflow would most ease the pain of working in the high-stress environment, reducing the burden of responding to repetitive or low-complexity issues.
Another factor that can lessen tension on security monitors while improving results is adjusting shift lengths and assignments.
Changing from a traditional 12-hour shift schedule to shorter, seven- to nine-hour shifts enables operators to remain alert and provide better customer service throughout their shifts without “hitting a wall,” says Kerry Jones, cofounder and director of independent remote monitoring center Professional Surveillance Management (PSM).
The 12-hour shifts are common practice but tough on employees when factoring in other off-the-clock commitments. Between a 12-hour shift, a one-hour commute, and seven hours of sleep, employees are left with very little time for their family, social life, or self-care, Jones says.
PSM rotates its shifts in a predictable pattern, so employees will work afternoons for four days, followed by a few days’ rest, three night shifts, and another rest period before repeating the cycle. This program lets afternoon (4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and night shift (11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.) personnel balance their professional and personal lives more effectively and lower their risk of burnout, Jones says.
She notes that since implementing this program, PSM’s team of 12 operators only took four sick days in 2018. Jones and the operators attribute this to the more balanced work schedule.
The schedule also produced a high retention rate, which benefits PSM both in hiring costs and system development. Experienced monitors’ input is crucial because PSM writes and uses its own software.
“They live and breathe remote monitoring,” Jones says. “We nurture the individual talents of the team. One of my favorite sayings is ‘Why hire chess masters and play the pieces yourself?’ I could sit at a remote operating terminal for 100 years and never be as good as my senior operators.”
At PSM, each operator’s role is slightly different. One operator who enjoys writing is tasked with writing incident reports and contributing to the company’s blog. Another detail-oriented operator carries out internal audits.
“If somebody has a strength, then as a human being that strength shouldn’t be left dormant,” Jones says. “If the company benefits from that strength, it’s a bonus.”
Organizations that do not make changes to their 12-hour shifts will likely lose employees, Powell says.
“You want to think about your duty of care, of course, but you also want to think about what it means to your organization to have high turnover,” she explains. “If you want to retain people, you have to figure out ways to make the job bearable, even fun, and challenging in a good way—find opportunities for development, learning, practice, and team building.”
“In the contract security world, there is oftentimes a treatment of employees as just bodies to fill the post, and that will only get you so far,” Powell continues. “You are not going to have the same level of engagement.”
For the operators’ health and wellbeing, she adds that GSOC managers should build in downtime, breaks, and opportunities for stress relief on the job. When designing SOCs, leadership should ensure break areas are separate enough from the workspace that employees feel they can shift their focus away from a crisis and unwind.
If managers have a period where they have to wind up operations, Powell notes, afterward ensure there is a period of recalibration where staff can recover. For extended high-stress situations, such as managing an ongoing crisis like a natural disaster, she recommends rotating staff out of stressful positions and ensuring there is enough redundancy to keep the SOC running without overtaxing key personnel.
Reposted from Observer
Since the beginning of the pandemic, museums and galleries have been particularly vulnerable to theft: without the constant stream of visitors prompting the watchful eyes of security guards, institutions have been standing empty and static for long stretches of time. This is the perfect time for burglars to take advantage of lapses in security, and they know it. On Monday, Italian officials arrested a 36-year-old man on suspicion of receiving stolen goods after a 500-year-old copy of Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci was found stashed in his bedroom cupboard. According to Italian police, the painting belongs to the collection of the Doma Museum at the San Domenico Maggiore church in Naples.
However, the Doma Museum has been shut down for months, and apparently, no one at the institution noticed that the painting, which is believed to have been painted by the artist Giacomo Alibrandi, was gone or even reported to the police that it was missing. “The painting was found on Saturday thanks to a brilliant and diligent police operation,” Naples prosecutor Giovanni Melillo said in a statement. “There was no complaint on the matter and in fact we contacted the (church) prior, who was not aware of its disappearance, as the room where the painting is kept has not been open for three months. Whoever took the painting wanted it, and it’s plausible that it was a commissioned theft by an organization working in the international art trade.”
In 2020, a similar series of thefts occurred when the Frans Hals painting Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer disappeared from Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, which was also shut down due to the virus. Shortly before that theft took place, another Dutch museum nearby, the Singer Laren Museum, was robbed of Spring Garden by Vincent van Gogh. Whether or not all these thefts are connected remains to be seen, but it’s clear that museums need to be more vigilant in protecting their collections, even and especially when no one’s visiting.
Reposted from Security Management Magazine & Dr. Jennifer Hesterman
Whether your organization is large or small, public or private, there are basic security tactics that can protect your building and occupants from unwanted attention or attack.
The goals of hardening are to deter, deflect, divert, and deny. You always want to project the image of a secure, impenetrable operation to someone conducting pre-operational surveillance, passing by as part of a group during a protest, or looking for a crime of opportunity with no premeditation. Hardening is an offensive security measure; it stops the fight before it starts.
U.S. military bases are protected by using layered defense or rings of security, a technique easily cross-applied to other organizations. Consider the center ring as protecting the most precious asset—possibly leadership, important records, or special equipment, such as servers. If the bad actor can make it here, he or she would inflict the maximum amount of damage. The ring just outside the center includes employees, the front desk, cafeteria space, and visitors. The third ring is the public space outside the entrance, such as parking areas, sidewalks, open spaces, or woods. The next layer consists of streets, public transportation, pedestrians, and businesses. Finally, the outer ring encompasses the surrounding community, including social media—an important virtual community.
Each ring presents an opportunity to harden, offering the chance to create an obstacle or tripwire against bad actors. Working from the outside-in, consider the security language used on your website and in event advertising, such as “plan extra time for bag checks.” This portrays a heightened level of security that may serve as a deterrent. Use free applications that search social media for threats to your property, organization, or leadership. This extends your situational awareness; for example, a shopping mall client using this service was alerted to a large group of teenagers planning a destructive flash mob on Twitter.
Next, build relationships with those on your perimeter. When I was the Vice Commander at Andrews Air Force Base, the home of Air Force One, I knew the managers of the hotels, fast food franchises, and gas stations surrounding our property. They were force multipliers, my eyes and ears outside the wire; if someone was conducting surveillance or discussing a plot, their help could provide early—or sometimes the only—warning. This relationship paid off several times, as they served a critical overwatch role, identifying possible danger.
Moving closer to the building, consider the deterrent effect of fencing and bollards—there are many attractive options. Have security-related signage on the property such as “cameras in use,” “regularly patrolled by security,” “private property,” or “no trespassing.”
If you have security personnel, their vehicles should be visible to the public. If not, off-duty police officers will sometimes agree to lend theirs. Security personnel should be on foot, out and about, politely challenging strangers, looking for problems, detecting surveillance, and providing a presence. Don’t forget to secure your parking lot and structures; you must protect employees and visitors, and incidents that start there could bring danger to your doorstep.
In these uncertain times, people want to feel safe, so don’t be afraid to enact security measures. Limit the number of entrances, try to keep exterior doors locked, and use electronic keys, codes, or badges to enter. Have a separate visitor entrance and screening area for quick verification, bag checks, and badging.
Front desk personnel are the next line of defense and must be trained in “verbal judo” or other de-escalation techniques to deal with unauthorized or angry visitors. They should have access to a panic button or hotline to dial 911, and they should not be afraid to use it.
Coming further inward, offices, conference rooms, and restrooms should have doors opening outward into the hallway to prevent being kicked in. Doors should lock on the inside, with either no windows to the hallway or a window shade. Pre-position bottled water and snacks like protein bars in case of an extended shelter-in-place.
Regularly train for crisis and have a communication plan. Talking about threats lessens fear, as people are empowered with knowledge of how to take care of themselves and each other.
By following these steps, your property, its occupants, and your precious assets will be more protected by layers of defense and rings of security. As former CIA and FBI Director William Webster said, “Security is always seen as too much, until the day it’s not enough.”
The German government has announced that it will hand out €32 million ($38 million) this year to national cultural institutions undertaking modernization projects, including updating security systems. More than 73 cultural venues across Germany will benefit from the grant.
“Preserving our cultural infrastructure is one of the most important cultural policy goals of the federal government, especially in these times of crisis,” German culture minister Monika Grütters said in a statement. She added: “culture creates identity and cohesion.”
The funds are being directed especially at venues outside Germany’s bustling cosmopolitan hubs, and to rural parts of the country.
Security concerns at German cultural sites have been a major preoccupation in the wake of several high-profile robberies, including ones at the Green Vault in Dresden in 2019 and the Bode Museum in Berlin in 2017.
Last fall, a number of ancient artifacts were also vandalized at the Altes Museum in Berlin by an unknown perpetrator.
The Alte Pinakothek, the preeminent museum in Munich known for its significant collection of Old Master paintings, has earmarked some of the money to boost its security systems. Corvey Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site in the North Rhine-Westphalia that dates back to 844, has done the same.
Other beneficiaries include the state art collection in Düsseldorf and the Regensburg Cathedral and the Völklingen Ironworks building in the Saarland.
Museums and galleries across Germany have been closed since the beginning of November. At the beginning of this month, state leaders met virtually and decided to extend lockdown measures until the end of January at the earliest. Compensation programs are in place to help venues with losses incurred during this time.
Reposted from The New York Times
Federal and local authorities across the country pressed their hunt this weekend for the members of the angry mob that stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, as Washington’s mayor issued an urgent appeal to start preparing immediately for more potential violence before, during and after the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Following one of the most stunning security lapses in the city’s history, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser sent a firmly worded letter on Saturday to the Department of Homeland Security, asking officials to move up to Monday the implementation of heightened security measures that are otherwise set to begin on Jan. 19, just one day before Mr. Biden’s swearing-in.
Ms. Bowser’s call to action, which came as law enforcement officers in several states made arrests related to the assault on the Capitol, was echoed Sunday by Senator Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who is charged with overseeing the planning of the inaugural celebration.
The Capitol complex, typically a hive of activity, remained cut off from its surroundings Sunday night by troop deployments and an imposing scrim of seven-foot-tall, unscalable fencing. Still in shock from the worst breach of the building in more than two centuries, lawmakers were expected to turn their attention this week to a second slate of impeachment charges against President Trump, who has said little about the rampage he helped incite — in part because social media companies, like Twitter and Facebook, have either banned him or severely limited his use of their platforms.
As of Sunday, nearly 400 people had joined a private group online dedicated to what is being billed as the “Million Militia March,” an event scheduled to take place in Washington on Jan. 20. On Parler, a social media site popular on the far right that is in danger of being taken offline because of rampant talk of violence, commenters were debating what tools they should bring to the march, mentioning everything from baseball bats to body armor to assault rifles.
“We took the building once,” one person posted. “We can take it again.”
While most of the chatter online appears to be directed toward Inauguration Day, some on the right have argued that pro-Trump activists should instead gather once again on Capitol Hill and hold other rallies in cities outside Washington on Jan. 17. Over the weekend, fliers began to circulate on Parler and in private groups on the chatting services WhatsApp and Signal, calling for an “Armed march on Capitol Hill and all state capitols” at noon that day.
“I’d like to come to this, but want to know, does our president want us there?” asked one person on the social media site Gab. “Awaiting instructions.”
In a statement, the U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for security at the inauguration, said the inauguration was “a foundational element of our democracy” and “the safety and security of all those participating” was “of the utmost importance.”
Even as the throng of hundreds — if not thousands — breached gates, smashed windows and stormed into the Capitol last week, there were also tense standoffs at statehouses in Kansas, Colorado, Oregon and Georgia. On Saturday, that trend seemed to continue as Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said he was told of a “disturbing report of a death threat” received on Friday by the Iowa Democratic Party.
“Threats like this & violence are UNACCEPTABLE,” Mr. Grassley wrote on Twitter.
On Monday, the Michigan Capitol Commission is scheduled to meet to consider banning guns from the building. In April, in a kind of dress rehearsal for the chaos in Washington, a group of gun-toting protesters decrying coronavirus lockdowns rushed the State Capitol in Lansing, not long after Mr. Trump tweeted, “Liberate Michigan.”
Armed with federal warrants, law enforcement officers spent much of the weekend cracking down on people who had stormed the National Capitol, making a series of arrests in states from Iowa to Florida, and filing new charges against some of the more than 80 people who were taken into custody last week by local officers in Washington. Among those charged so far have been a man seen hauling off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern; the leader of the Hawaii chapter of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys; and a proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory known for showing up at pro-Trump rallies in a headdress with horns and a spear.
On Saturday, federal prosecutors filed a new complaint against Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., a Georgia man who was accused of threatening Ms. Pelosi by saying in a text message that he was going to put “a bullet in her noggin on Live TV.” Federal agents said that Mr. Meredith had been staying at a Holiday Inn in Washington and had weapons in his camper-style trailer that included a Glock handgun, a Tavor X95 assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
On Sunday, prosecutors brought charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct against a figure who had first been identified online by civilian sleuths: Eric G. Munchel of Nashville. In a photograph that circulated widely after the attack, Mr. Munchel, 30, was pictured wearing tactical military gear and carrying a handful of plastic restraints known as zip ties.
Prosecutors in Washington also filed a complaint Sunday on similar charges against Larry R. Brock, a retired Air Force officer from Texas, saying he too had been carrying plastic restraints.
The F.B.I. has said that it has received more than 40,000 tips online about the Capitol mob, including photographs and video clips. In an interview with NPR on Sunday, Michael R. Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said that the Justice Department was considering charges for “theft of national security information” after some in the mob looted laptops, documents and other items from congressional offices.
Some of those who had been at the Capitol discovered that they had been put on government no-fly lists as they tried on Sunday to make their way home from Washington.
As charges continued to be filed, more participants in the attack were identified around the country, among them business executives and local school board officials. Several police departments — and the New York Fire Department — have said they are investigating members who may have taken part in the assault.
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