INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Infosecurity Magazine
Ransomware attacks fell by 50% in Q1 2021 as threat actors shifted from using mass spread campaigns to focusing on fewer, larger targets with unique samples, according to the McAfee Threats Report: June 2021.
The researchers noted that the traditional approach of using one form of ransomware to infect and extort payments from many victims is becoming less prominent, mainly because the targeted systems can recognize and block such attempts over time. Instead, they see a trend towards fewer, customized Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) campaigns tailored to larger, more lucrative organizations.
As a result of this shift, the analysis found that the number of prominent ransomware family types declined from 19 in January 2021 to nine in March 2021. The most detected ransomware group in Q1 2021 was REvil, followed by RansomeXX, Ryuk, NetWalker, Thanos, MountLocker, WastedLocker, Conti, Maze and Babuk strains.
Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist, explained: “Criminals will always evolve their techniques to combine whatever tools enable them to best maximize their monetary gains with the minimum of complication and risk. We first saw them use ransomware to extract small payments from millions of individual victims. Today, we see RaaS supporting many players in these illicit schemes holding organizations hostage and extorting massive sums for the criminals.”
Numerous high-profile ransomware incidents have taken place this year; these include the attacks on the US East Coast fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline and meat processor JBS, both of which led to substantial payments being paid.
Another important finding from the report was that there was a 117% rise in the spread of cryptocurrency-generating coin mining malware, which McAfee said is as a result of a spike in 64-bit CoinMiner applications. Unlike ransomware, in which victims’ systems are locked up and held hostage until a cryptocurrency payment is made, Coin Miner malware infects organizations’ systems and then silently produces cryptocurrency using those systems’ computing capacity. This tactic means criminals do not need to interact with the victim, who may be completely unaware they are under attack.
Samani added: “The takeaway from the ransomware and coin miner trends shouldn’t be that we need to restrict or even outlaw the use of cryptocurrencies. If we have learned anything from the history of cybercrime, criminals counter defenders’ efforts by simply improving their tools and techniques, sidestepping government restrictions, and always being steps ahead of defenders in doing so. If there are efforts to restrict cryptocurrencies, perpetrators will develop new methods to monetize their crimes, and they only need to be a couple steps ahead of governments to continue to profit.”
In total, McAfee detected an average of 688 new malware threats per minute in Q1 of 2021, representing an increase of 40 threats per minute compared to Q4 of 2020.
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Reposted from AAM
All aquariums, zoos, and museums have core values—beliefs, philosophies, and principles that drive the organization. These values support the organization’s vision, shape its culture, and ensure that all employees are working towards the same goals. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA), for instance, we have eleven formally defined core values: service, inclusion, respect, teamwork, leadership, integrity, quality, innovation, communication, sustainability, and fun. As an institution and as individuals, we use these core values to direct our day-to-day activities, influence our interactions with others, and guide our future plans.
Following the departure of a long-tenured Vice President of Exhibitions, in May 2019, I became the second Vice President within a three-year period. Having experienced so much change, in addition to starting the most complex and technically challenging exhibition MBA had ever embarked upon, the Exhibitions team had not been able to establish a shared culture that fully embraced the organization’s core values.
During my first nine months, I met with everyone on my team individually and in groups. Staff shared what they thought did and did not work in our processes and culture. I attended meetings with staff in Exhibitions and from across the organization. I watched and I listened. What I saw and heard was a team that had gone through a great deal of disruption in prior years—comings and goings of staff, radical changes in job descriptions, inconsistent exhibition processes, leadership changes, emergence of dysfunctional and antisocial behaviors, emergence of fear, and for some, trauma. This resulting culture was not the fault of any one particular individual, but rather a perfect storm of factors that led to a team that did not embody trust, collaboration, or respect for their collective work.
After reflecting on the feedback, as a first step, I reorganized the division. This meant the departure of some staff and the addition of three new leadership positions to oversee content, design, and project management. I was ready to embark on the project of engaging all of the Exhibitions staff to work together to build a more cohesive and collaborative team. Then COVID happened. And like the rest of the world, MBA closed. Some of the Exhibitions staff was furloughed, then laid off. The rest of us shifted from working on-site to working from home, and staff anxiety increased due to an uncertain future. Many questions streamed through everyone’s mind: Would there be future layoffs? Who would be affected? Could we trust leadership in navigating us through a pandemic? How would we work remotely to develop and design the most complex exhibition MBA has ever created?
The Exhibitions Division leadership team and I were all new to working with one another, and we needed to find common ground as a cohesive leadership team before we engaged our staff in the process of creating core values. We had conversations about the culture we, the leadership team, wanted within our division—the qualities we wanted to come forward (collaboration, communication, joy, positivity) and the type of environment we wanted to foster (creative, trusting, communicative, nimble). We also discussed the negative attributes we saw in various capacities that we wanted to get rid of (passive-aggressiveness, poor communication, ego). Based on these discussions, we developed a process that would hopefully be a safe space free of judgement and criticism, while empowering staff to step forward and help define our core values.
In August 2020, we began laying out our process for collaboratively defining a more cohesive team. We kicked off a multi-step process at a virtual all-division meeting which was attended by the entire Exhibitions staff.
I defined the following ground rules for this process:
I asked each staff member to reflect on the following prompt: Think about a personal friend or professional colleague (past or present) that you admire and/or strive to emulate. What are the qualities that this person embodies that you think are important for the work environment? For example, “clear communicator,” “honest,” etc.
I then asked staff to take ten minutes to write down as many qualities as they could that resonated with them and answer the prompt. Then I asked them to select the top three and post them to our collaborative virtual whiteboard.
I then asked staff to think about the following prompt: What kinds of behaviors are harmful to relationships at work? I reminded them that these behaviors were not confined only to some people, but could be things that all of us exhibited at different times. Staff took ten minutes to write down their thoughts then selected and posted their top three.
As a group, we then read through the harmful behaviors and clustered similar answers together. As we went through, staff expressed agreement about what their peers had shared. One person said they didn’t realize that other staff felt the same way they did, to which many others nodded in agreement.
Next, the entire team went back and read through the positive qualities, and again clustered similar qualities together. From the team’s responses, several clusters of values developed: creativity, collaboration, emotional intelligence, and communication. An additional value that came out was professionalism and work ethic. This last value became a significant point of discussion and wordsmithing for the leadership team and me, as these words can foster perfectionism and a white supremacy culture, neither of which we wanted to encourage.
A few weeks later, the Exhibitions leadership team led several small group sessions for staff to reflect on what these words meant to them. After a second round of discussions, the leadership team and I further refined the distilled values. The entire Exhibitions staff was then given a chance to review and comment on the polished core values.
Our team holds MBA’s broader organizational values as our foundation, and the Exhibitions Core Values stand in the fore of our collective work. To keep them in the fore, we dedicate a part of each division meeting to core value shout-outs, where speakers describe how their colleagues exemplify specific core values. For example, in a recent meeting, I shared, “In support of the value ‘Effective Communication,’ I really appreciated when Erica asked me if the way she was organizing the exhibit messages and descriptions was an effective tool for me to review, as well as to share with others.” But we also use our core values as a means to move our work forward in a positive way when having an issue with a colleague. We bring each other in and reference what’s not sitting right based on our core values, for example, “We’re not giving each other the information we need to succeed, so we have some work to do in recommitting to effective communication strategies with each other.” Additionally, these core values have helped identify origins to problems without blame, in a case where, as one staff member put it, “critical feedback was never stated out loud because team members weren’t feeling mutually supported. So, we’ve identified some work to do on collaborative feedback sessions rather than blaming the person who didn’t speak up.”
As museums now work to reimagine themselves after COVID and increased calls to grapple with racial and social justice issues, now is the time for leadership to evaluate the cultural health of their departments and organizations as a whole. Collaboratively reassessing your values, or defining new ones, will produce more benefits than the time it takes to do this work. Your staff will feel invested and part of the greater whole. This foundational work will lead to better communication, productivity, and harmony amongst staff. In the Exhibitions Division at MBA, our staff has embraced the Exhibitions Core Values as part of the active and collaborative culture within the division. They shape how we interact with our colleagues within the division and across the organization, so that we create, support, and lift up our peers with positivity, empathy, and joy. They give everyone a chance to offer appreciation, feel appreciated, and provide working examples of bringing each other in with integrity, dignity, and passion.
Reposted from Allied Universal
The threat of an active shooter is a possibility anywhere. But as with any crisis situation, preparation and planning can help to minimize chaos and injury. Establishing an active shooter protocol, and communicating that plan to your tenants and employees, is critical. Your plan should:
Stress the importance of remaining calm in any violent situation.
Encourage anyone involved to call 911 in an emergency.
Enforce the importance of remaining on the line with the 911 operator until police arrive because needs may change as an event unfolds.
Detail how to warn employees an active shooter is present. Code words, intercom capabilities and instant messaging can help ensure people are aware of the situation and stay out of harm’s way.
Include evacuation and lock-down procedures.
Discuss how employees can observe details of the shooter in case the perpetrator leaves the premises.
Train people to take accurate head counts and to check others for injuries.
Conduct mock shooter drills.
The response to an active shooter situation will be determined by the particular circumstances. It is important to assess the situation and make the best choices for the individual event.
If an active shooter enters your workspace, call the police and give the location and description of the shooter if possible, and attempt to negotiate with the shooter, but do not attempt to overpower them with force — that should be the last resort.
When possible, evacuate the building if it appears safe to do so. This may need to be through a window or back door. The safest exits in an emergency may not be the main hallways or doors—well-marked exits could be targets for potential shooters. It is crucial not to assume help will quickly come to evacuate the location as active shooter incidents are the most chaotic, confusing and difficult scenes to manage. The first responders’ priority will be to contain the shooter. If you are able to and decide to flee the building, have an escape route in mind, bring a cell phone, keep your hands visible and do not stop to assist wounded victims or move them. Instead, tell the police where they are located.
If there are no safe escape routes, a lock down might be a better choice. Immediately notify the police of where you are, and conceal yourself in a room that can be locked or barricaded. Turn off the lights and stay away from doors and windows to create the impression that no one is there. When the police arrive, move slowly, keep your hands visible and follow all instructions.
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The near term future is looking much brighter than it was in March 2020, when I published my first set of scenarios exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic might play out. While the death toll in the US has surpassed 600,000 (a grim statistic that falls between the middle and worst case scenarios I explored at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns), cases and deaths are both trending downwards. Over forty percent of the US population is vaccinated, including over 76% of people sixty-five or older (the age cohort most grievously damaged by the coronavirus). Many states and municipalities are lifting restrictions, and as of the end of April, over 70 percent of US museums had reopened to the public.
This progress doesn’t mean that museums can relax their planning, trusting that everything will continue to get better over the remainder of the year. The current promising trajectory could be disrupted by a number of factors, and scenario planning is just as important now as it was in spring 2020. In today’s post, I summarize recent findings that suggest a scenario in which the US recovery from the pandemic slows, and we experience new surges in some areas.
Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus, also known as B.1.617.2, is now considered a “variant of concern.” Research suggests that this variant, which was first identified in India, is 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha strain that originally dominated the US, and is associated with double the risk of hospitalization. While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines seem to provide good protection against Delta, there is some laboratory evidence that they may somewhat less effective.
At the time of the CDC announcement, the Delta variant was responsible for 10.3 percent of US Covid-19 cases, up 6 percent from only a week ago. Ten percent is about the “tipping point” at which when Delta began spreading rapidly through the UK, where it is now the dominant strain. Dr. Eric Topol, the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, recently noted that as the Delta variant “doubles every seven to 10 days…when it gets to three weeks from now, this variant will be dominant. That means we have two to three weeks to just go flat out with vaccination to stop this trend.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look likely we’ll be able to supercharge the vaccination rate in the US. Although 43.9 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated, the rate at which people are getting vaccinated has been slowing down, and some states have stalled at dangerously low levels: Mississippi 29%; Alabama <31%; Arkansas, <33%; Louisiana, Georgia, and Wyoming all <34%, according to CDC data. Elsewhere in the country, there are localized communities with very low vaccination rates. (For example, in Borough Park, NYC less than 11% of the population is vaccinated, due to vaccine hesitancy among Hasidic Jews). And some demographic groups, such as children under the age of 12 and people who are immunocompromised, remain at risk because they aren’t yet eligible for or can’t safely use the vaccine.
For all these reasons, museums—particularly museums in states or communities with low vaccination rates—should be prepared for the possibility of a local surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and reimposition of precautions such as closures, limits on attendance, and mandatory masking. (The contagiousness and severity of Delta has prompted the British government to delay easing their coronavirus restrictions by a full month.) Even local surges could affect attitudes nationally about continued mask use, distancing, and willingness to visit museums.
This isn’t a forecast or prediction, it’s just sketching, for your radar, a near term future that falls well within the bounds of the Cone of Plausibility. (I’d peg it to the “plausible” Zone in the following diagram of the Cone—the area which current knowledge suggests a set of conditions “could happen.”)
What can museum people do?
Never assume you know what the future will be, especially in such an unsettled year. Spending a little mental and emotional energy on scenarios now will make a potential crisis less costly.
Reposted from Smithsonian Magazine
Greek police finally cracked a nine-year-old art heist this week, leading to the celebrated return of two paintings by Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian. These works and one unrecovered drawing were stolen from the National Gallery-Alexandros Soutsos Museum in Athens on January 9, 2012, in a sensational early-morning heist.
Acting on tips from Greek newspaper Proto Thema, police apprehended their primary suspect, construction worker George Sarmatzopoulos, on Monday, per a police statement.
To the surprise of officials, Sarmatzopoulos confessed to the theft outright. He then directed police to a dried ravine southeast of Athens, where they discovered the two stolen artworks wrapped in protective plastic and stowed underneath a thicket of brambles.
Based on the well-organized nature of the crime, police had previously assumed that the burglary was carried out by two or more people, as the Associated Press reported in 2012. But in his testimony, partially reprinted in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, the 49-year-old divorcee claims that he alone pulled off the job.
“I want to tell you something else that I did many years ago, and it weighs on my conscience and I cannot sleep,” Sarmatzopoulos began his statement to police, as translated by the Art Newspaper and reported in Kathimerini. “In 2012, I went into the National Gallery and took three paintings. I will tell you everything in as much detail as I can remember.”
Sarmatzopoulos further claims that he began to visit the National Gallery constantly for about six months leading up to the crime, until thoughts of stealing a work for himself “tormented” him. He never planned to sell the paintings, he claims: “I hadn’t decided which work I would take, but only that I wanted to take one.”
Rather, he seems to have intended to keep the works to enjoy. The man referred to himself multiple times as an “art lover,” and used to wield the Twitter username “Art Freak,” as Helen Stoilas reports for the Art Newspaper.
Sarmatzopoulos says that he spent months collecting information on the locations of paintings, security cameras, where to enter and exit the building and when the guards typically took smoke breaks, as Helena Smith reports for the Guardian.
On a randomly chosen Sunday evening, he says that he began to intentionally set off alarms in the museum without entering the building, prompting the sole night guard on duty to disable at least one of the alarms. Around four in the morning, dressed in black, the alleged thief then entered through an unlocked balcony door and crawled into the galleries.
“I crawled into the room and started waving my arms to see if the alarm radars were working,” Sarmatzopoulos relates in his testimony, as printed in Kathimerini and translated via Google Translate. “Since I did not hear any alarm, I assumed that the guard had turned it off. I got up and found myself in front of Picasso’s painting.”
In less than seven minutes, he carefully stripped three works from their frames: Woman’s Head (1939), a Cubist portrait that Picasso made of his one-time lover Dora Maar; Piet Mondrian’s Stammer Mill (1909), an early figurative work by the Dutch artist depicting a windmill; and a work in pen and ink by Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, dating to the 16th century.
While the two paintings were recovered this week, the third stolen work remains missing. Sarmatzopoulos tells police that the paper was damaged during the raid and that he eventually flushed it down a toilet, BBC News reports.
He stowed the works in his home and in a remote warehouse for years. Then, in January, after reading a report that police were close to solving the decade-old mystery, Sarmatzopoulos frantically moved the paintings from storage to their hiding place in the ravine, as Dimitris Popotas and Aria Kalyva report for Greek newspaper Proto Thema.
At the time of the theft, Greece’s economy was reeling from the economic recession and a protracted debt crisis, per the Guardian. Later investigations found that limited funding led to severe security lapses at the museum, including a lack of guards, an outdated alarm system and reduced security camera coverage.
The National Gallery closed shortly after the heist in 2013 for an 8-year-long, $70-milion (€59 million) expansion, which more than doubled the museum’s size, as William Summerfield reported for the Art Newspaper in March. Though attendance remains limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the museum finally reopened on March 24 of this year to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Greek independence, the Ministry of Culture noted in a statement.
“Today is really a special day, a great joy but also a great emotion,” Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni said at a Tuesday press conference, per the police statement.
Mendoni notes that Picasso donated Woman’s Head to Greece in honor of the country’s resistance to Nazi Germany during World War II. On the back of the canvas, the Spanish artist wrote in French: “For the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso.” (That distinctive signature would have made the painting “impossible” to sell on the black market, the minister adds.)
“Picasso had dedicated the painting to the Greek people as a recognition of the National Resistance,” Minister of Citizen Protection Michalis Chrysochoidis said during the conference, per the statement. He noted that while “[a] Greek was found to deprive” the country of the precious painting, “Greeks were found to bring it back.”
Chrysochoidis added: “I wish all the works of art of our Greek homeland to find their natural place, to return to where they belong.”
IFCPP is honored to appoint Michael-John Waite as the newest member of its prestigious Advisory Board! Michael-John is an active IFCPP contributor that has provided the Foundation with a host of timely and outstanding educational offerings and other valuable resources. His expertise in a variety of areas is on the cutting edge of cultural property protection. IFCPP and its managing entity, Layne Consultants International, are proud to partner with Mr. Waite and Armite International to bring additional resources to the Foundation’s growing community.
Michael-John Waite, CIPM II serves as the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Armite International Security Solutions, a minority and veteran-owned strategic advisement company in the Washington, DC Metro Area. Michael-John specializes in intelligence gathering/threat monitoring, controversial artwork/collections, protests and civil unrest, risk assessment (TVRAs), litigation avoidance/management, emergency management, physical and electronic security measures, security operations centers, communications and PR, and Executive protection. He also serves as the Director of Crisis & Risk for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. Michael-John oversees several critical-operations programs including Intelligence and Investigations, Emergency Preparedness, and Crisis & Risk Management.
Additionally, Michael-John serves as a legal liaison and active shooter response/preparedness instructor. Michael-John has worked with several global organizations to develop emergency preparedness/response procedures, manage security operations and personnel, and conduct investigations. Michael-John holds professional certifications as a Red Cross Instructor, Executive Protection Specialist, Certified Institutional Protection Manager (CIPM II), and security technology installer/maintainer. Previously, Michael-John contracted with the Department of Defense and served as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. Michael-John is an active member of ASIS International, AAM, IAAPA, and InfraGard. He is also a member of, and regular instructor for the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection (IFCPP). Michael-John holds a Bachelors of Science in International Relations and Global Security Management, is working towards a Masters, and is preparing for Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification. When not involved in security related functions, Michael-John also serves at the President of Anchor & Vine Global Outreach, a non-profit organization dedicated to international missions and humanitarian aid.
African American museums across the country bear a glorious responsibility to educate and engage, to inform and inspire, to bring together and build. As anchors for this engagement throughout the year, we celebrate cultural holidays, from King Day in January to Kwanzaa in December, embracing them as opportunities to celebrate heritage and inspire hope. In the middle of the year lands Juneteenth, a festive cultural holiday that reminds all Americans to remember the past, reflect upon the present, and renew ourselves for the future. Juneteenth is all at once a historical event, a cultural commemoration, and a reminder. It reminds us to be vigilant and to live out the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “None of us are free until we are all free.”
It was on June 19, 1865, that the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, learned they were free. The news arrived more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and months before the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished the institution of slavery. One of many important milestones in the nation’s long journey toward emancipation, June 19 is unique in that it does not commemorate a legislative or bureaucratic achievement, but a community celebration of when the last of the enslaved people in the United States finally learned they were free.
African Americans have commemorated this date for 155 years, but the video-captured murder of George Floyd in May 2020 ignited a nationwide racial reckoning and sparked renewed interest in Juneteenth among more Americans than ever before. Many people across the nation discovered Juneteenth for the first time in 2020, and they channeled it as an opportunity to rise up against systemic injustices. Against the backdrop of 2020, Americans saw Juneteenth with new eyes, as an inflection point for asking important questions of ourselves and our society: What does freedom really mean? How long will injustice and inequity be the reality in America? What can I do to make change?
This renewed interest was an opportunity for Black museums, but we had to figure out how to seize that opportunity while contending with the public health guidelines that had forced museums to close our physical doors and rethink our approach to programming. So, I met with Ahmad Ward, Executive Director of the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and together we developed the idea of joining forces to host a national virtual collaboration uniting Black museums in celebration of Juneteenth.
This year, what started as an idea for virtually uniting communities in lockdown has grown to an ongoing collaboration between ten of the nation’s premier Black museums. On June 15, Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) will join forces with nine other Black museums across the nation to commemorate Juneteenth and celebrate our shared mission to preserve and uplift Black history and culture with a virtual event, Juneteenth: Lift Every Voice. Unifying under the name of BlkFreedom Collective and around the theme “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” together we will commemorate the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth via a nationally televised virtual program featuring vibrant cultural and educational activations. Each museum has selected a theme from the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” to guide their short video contribution. As part of the program, NAAM will debut our new African American Cultural Ensemble (ACE), a choir that will explore the theme of hope with a multimedia performance. The virtual event will also feature guest appearances by members of the Congressional Black Caucus reading excerpts of the Emancipation Proclamation, as well as luminaries Dr. Johnnetta Cole and Lonnie Bunch reading excerpts of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
In addition to the virtual program, this collaborative Juneteenth program will feature a national expansion of NAAM’s Knowledge is Power Book Giveaway program, which provides free children’s books celebrating Black culture to K-12 students across the Seattle region. Sponsored by the T-Mobile Foundation, the nationwide Juneteenth extension of the program will provide culturally relevant children’s books for distribution at all ten BlkFreedom Collective museums plus five additional locations nationwide.
Spanning the entire country and united in mission, participating museums include America’s Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Amistad Research Center of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, California African American Museum in Los Angeles, California, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan, Harvey Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, Washington.
Museums serve as messengers. They memorialize moments and inspire movements. Our national virtual Juneteenth program hosted by a visionary network of African American museums this year aims to do all of this while uplifting the collective voice of our nation’s Black communities. For years, Black museums across the nation have stood as gathering places for heritage and hope in communities. It is within Black museums that history and destiny converge. It is there that we make sense of the painful past and envision a brighter future. By preserving the stories and traditions of our shared culture, Black museums inspire positive action in the present and help to shape the meaning of major inflection points like Juneteenth for future generations.
After years of community celebration and advocacy, Juneteenth is finally gaining traction as more states and companies designate it an official holiday. Today, forty-seven states and the District of Columbia recognized Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday. Far fewer, however, recognize Juneteenth as an official, paid holiday for state employees. This year, NAAM supported the passage of legislation in the Washington State Legislature to make Juneteenth an official holiday in Washington, making it just the sixth state in the nation to observe Juneteenth in this way. Efforts to elevate Juneteenth to a federal holiday have been in the works for years as well, starting first with U.S. Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins, D-Michigan. Introducing a bill petitioning to make Juneteenth a federal holiday in 1996, Rep. Collins said, “We must revive and preserve Juneteenth not only as the end of a painful chapter in American history, but also as a reminder of the importance of preserving the lines of communication between the powerful and powerless in our society.” The lessons of the past can be used to make America a more equitable and just place for all. By uplifting communities, teaching a more inclusive American history, and preserving cultural milestones like Juneteenth, African American museums are illuminating a path to do just that.
Reposted from CNN
Ramses Escobedo probably wouldn't call himself a hero.
But during the pandemic, he was asked to act in some heroic ways.
Escobedo, a bilingual Spanish-English librarian, manages a branch of the San Francisco Public Library.
For more than a year, however, Escobedo hasn't been lending out books. Instead, he's worked with a Covid-19 contact tracer team for San Francisco's Department of Public Health.
Covid has affected American schools, hospitals and businesses. But libraries -- which often serve people who have nowhere else to turn -- have responded in unprecedented ways. Like many of us, they've had to pivot, going from providing extensive in-person services and programming onsite in branches to quickly establishing virtual lectures and classes, and contact-less material pickup, as well as services that were strictly Covid-related like Escobedo's assignment.
As a city worker, Escobedo's contract states he can be activated in an emergency. After his library closed in March of 2020, Escobedo was reassigned to a disaster service detail.
"It made sense for librarians ... to take on that role because we do outreach. We are in contact with the community every day," Escobedo told CNN. "I am proud to be part of this collective effort."
Escobedo's special assignment is part of a wider wave of libraries stepping up during the pandemic to do things that have little to do with books, but a lot to do with meeting community needs. This continues even as libraries are slowly reopening. And it reflects that they are public institutions offering services to anyone, for free.
But it also shows how libraries operate as a kind of first responder. When they close, people notice. "That was my other home," Chris McDermott, a retired teacher who lives alone, said of the public library in her town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. "A lifeline."
A survey conducted in March of 2020 by the American Library Association found that 99 percent of the public libraries that responded were closed because of the pandemic. But the association, whose membership includes20,000 public library employees, found many libraries nonetheless added virtual programming, distributed free craft supplies, put together book bundles for families and offered curbside pickup services.
In Hartford, Connecticut, some public libraries became Covid-19 vaccine administration sites. Librarians there also cleared obstacles to allow patrons to use outside electrical outlets to charge cell phones. In Leominster, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston, librarians installed mobile hot spots at the city's senior and veterans' centers, both of which have large parking lots, enabling many more people to log onto the Internet.
"Anyone can go to the parking lot and connect to the Wi-Fi for free," Nicole Piermarini, the library's assistant director told CNN.
Librarians are now armed with new information about what critical needs they fill in an emergency. At the main downtown library branch in Hartford, for example, librarians learned how important their copying and fax machines are. Many patrons needed these services to obtain documents to submit to government agencies. So the librarians reoriented the entire first floor to make those services easy to access even during the pandemic.
"We're the public help desk," said Bridget E. Quinn, president of the Hartford Public Library, as she gazed out her office window, which overlooks an Interstate 91 on-ramp. "When someone has a -- name the device -- and they have a question, they call us or they come in."
It's true for libraries big and small. Piermarini at the Leominster library in Massachusetts lent out laptops during the pandemic, and had staff on-hand outside to explain how to use them to any patrons checking them out if they didn't know how they worked.
Many libraries had to establish new remote services -- curbside pickup and online programming, for example -- virtually overnight when the March 2020 lockdown hit. And now patrons want those services to continue.
As librarians emerge from Covid-19 closures, they are thinking about how they will maintain existing services along with the new ones. It reflects a broader struggle within the library services field, librarians say, because their mandate has done nothing but grow.
In some cases, libraries are re-opening even as many in the community aren't vaccinated. In Hartford, for example, while more than 50 percent of Connecticut residents are fully vaccinated, only about one-third of people in the state capital are.
"We're re-opening by degrees," said Quinn in Hartford. "It's an interesting conundrum: how do we make the library a warm, welcoming place but still keep a distance?"
Few public libraries are flush with cash, although they got a financial lifeline from the federal government during the pandemic in the form of the federal CARES act, which through the Institute of Museum and Library Services allotted $50 million to libraries.
But library leaders say the pandemic money isn't sustainable.
"The vast majority of public libraries are underfunded to meet the needs of their community," Michelle Jeske, the City Librarian for Denver Public Library, told CNN.
"Probably significantly underfunded," added Jeske, who is also president of the Public Library Association.
Many libraries are funded from city or county sales and use taxes, which fell sharply during the pandemic. If local budgets have a hole, libraries are often affected.
"If you were struggling before, because your budget was linked to a tax revenue stream, it's worse now," Jeske said of libraries. "Sales and use revenue in our city declined dramatically because people were staying at home."
It's not just books; libraries have to have computers. A lot of them. That made the closure of most libraries so dire for patrons without access to a computer or high-speed Internet at home.
"The community's needs keep growing and changing so we need to, too," Jeske said. "So we buy everything we used to buy -- say, 20 or 30 years ago -- and then we have also to buy computers and pay for Wi-Fi."
The ever-increasing demand for services comes as some of the most iconic libraries in America are still in the initial phases of reopening. The New York Public Library, for example, is only open for limited in-person browsing at most branches.
When American's libraries do fully re-open, many in the field hope communities will remember how critical their services proved to be during the pandemic, especially to those with the greatest needs, such as people experiencing homelessness.
"Public libraries are the most trusted institution -- certainly in government," Jeske in Denver told CNN. "We are free and open to everybody. And many libraries -- if not most -- are dedicated to serving the most vulnerable."
It's work that many parts of government are charged with tackling, but which librarians have no choice but to do since unlike offices, schools or businesses, anyone can walk into a public library for free.
Librarians say going forward, they would like partnerships with public and private entities to help carry out the work libraries do. Public officials need to work with them to apply some of the lessons learned during the pandemic -- namely that if a situation arises where everyone has to do everything online, those who don't have access to a device or reliable Internet connection are often left behind without libraries. Quinn and others say it reflects a skills gap and a technology gap that librarians are uniquely positioned to help with.
Back in San Francisco, Ramses Escobedo says he misses his library where "people from all walks of life come in" and the city's residents "love their libraries." Working with the Covid contact tracing team has been exhausting.
But he'll never regret how he and his fellow librarians spent the pandemic.
"We all wanted to contribute in just any way we could," he says.
Reposted from Mental Floss
In the photo released by the FBI, a young man appears in side profile, his teeth clenching a pipe. Agents are searching for him—he was last seen in the San Francisco Bay area in 2003. In another case, they're looking for a figure with a long nose, dimpled chin, bushy eyebrows, and tufts of curly hair, last seen in Milwaukee in 2018. A “Seeking Information” poster from the same FBI unit shows a masked man in a cowl, crowned by two bat ears, rushing forward as a cape flutters behind him.
These are just some of the cases in the National Stolen Art File, a public database of more than 5500 missing items of cultural value, including artwork, jewelry, antiques, artifacts, and memorabilia. It's a project of the 25-person FBI team investigating what the bureau classifies as “cultural property crimes.” The idea is that if some dealer or collector comes across a suspicious item, they can easily consult the database and, if it's determined the item is stolen, help reunite it with its lawful owner. The young man with a pipe is a Norman Rockwell painting of a college student stolen from a California home in 2003; the figure with the curly hair is a Pablo Picasso etching that went missing in 2018 from a Milwaukee tea shop, where it was hung to attract potential buyers; and the cowled figure is one of five prints by New Orleans artist Nicole Charbonnet, this one appropriating a vintage Batman comic book, taken from a truck in 2019.
“The database is really a depository for people to do their due diligence research,” Colleen Childers, the management and program analyst of the FBI's Art Crime Team, tells Mental Floss. Auction houses and museums can cross-reference “items that they are looking to buy and sell to check to see if they have been stolen.”
The FBI began keeping files on stolen artwork in 1979 as part its oversight of interstate commerce. Some black and white photographs and picture-less descriptions from those paper files are now part of the database, which has grown to include works by Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, and Rembrandt; Super Bowl rings; Stradivarius violins; and 1930s comic books. Like any display of world-class museum items, there are standards for what makes a piece worthy of the National Stolen Art File: It has to be valued at $5000 or more, have some historic or artistic value, and possess some feature(s) that would make it identifiable.
Each entry in the database has an image and some information about the item’s maker, age, and appearance. Every picture tells a piece of a story, and each story is an individual mystery. Who detached an 8-foot metal Rod of Asclepius (the snake-around-a-stick symbol) from an Illinois medical clinic? What happened to a handful of Peruvian pin-up artist Alberto Vargas’s lustiest ladies? Who stole an entire wall’s worth of 19th-century Chinese paintings of ships? Is a 2500-year-old stone statue of a woman holding a child recovered from the ruins of Ancient Carthage now in a storage unit somewhere?
The concept of art theft may conjure an image of thieves spelunking down from a museum skylight in the dark of night, but FBI Special Agent Tim Carpenter, the supervisory agent in charge of the unit, tells Mental Floss that most thefts are less intricate. “It’s not usually The Thomas Crown Affair,” Carpenter says. “These are mostly crimes of opportunity.”
Usually the thief takes the item because circumstances allow them to ... and then they have no idea what to do with it.
Some items can be sold for a fraction of their actual worth for their aesthetic value, Childers says, but the market for high-end collectibles, fine art, and historic artifacts is guarded by appraisers and experts who track the history of any items before they purchase them. “Things like this don’t typically pay out well in the end,” according to Childers, “because if you are trying to sell a piece that’s stolen, everyone knows it’s stolen.” The black market for stolen art is also largely a fictional invention.
Some items have been in the National Stolen Art File for decades, and were probably destroyed for this very reason. Others are hidden away, the secret of someone who took them on a whim and can’t sell or return them without facing charges. Sometimes, this is a lifelong burden.
In 2017, a man wanted to have his late father's Robert Motherwell painting appraised, so he contacted The Dedalus Foundation, an organization founded by the abstract expressionist. With help from the FBI’s cultural property crimes unit, The Dedalus Foundation determined that the untitled painting, which featured two black streaks on a red surface, was one of several works that went missing in 1978. In that same year, after using The Santini Moving Company to move and store his art for two decades, Motherwell decided to hire another company. Soon after that, the artist realized dozens of his pieces had gone missing. It was the son of a former Santini employee who said the Motherwell painting had been in his father's possession for 20 years.
“They go underground forever,” Carpenter said. “It’s not uncommon for pieces like that Motherwell piece. I could point to a dozen recent cases like that, where we will uncover a piece that has been missing for 40 or 50 years.”
Another such case involved a Willem de Kooning painting, which was stolen from the University of Arizona in 1985. According to a police report from the time, a man distracted a guard who later found an empty space on the wall where it had been hanging. The painting, a female figure done in de Kooning’s characteristic harsh strokes, apparently adorned the bedroom wall of a quiet New Mexico couple for a few decades. After they both passed away, it ended up in a stash of their household items, which were sold to an antique store for $2000. The painting, worth at least $100,000, is now back at the university.
Carpenter said a similar circumstance played out in the recovery of a Norman Rockwell painting of a young boy resting in the sun, which had been taken from a New Jersey home during a 1976 robbery. The painting came into the possession of an antiques dealer in 2017, and he helped return it to the heirs of its rightful owners. No arrests were made.
Michael Goforth, co-owner of DeLind Fine Art Appraisers and steward of the Picasso etching stolen in Milwaukee, has an idea of how the theft played out. The piece, titled Torero, hung in an upscale tea shop whose proprietors allow Goforth to display art, relatively unguarded, for a few weeks.
“They probably saw it once, got a look at the signature and then came back and grabbed it,” Goforth said. At 20-by-15 inches, it would fit beneath a coat. (Because of his name recognition, prolific output, and the shoplift-ready size of many of his works, there are a lot of stolen Picassos out there, including 34 listed in the National Stolen Art File alone.)
“I just came back from lunch one day and it was gone,” Goforth tells Mental Floss. He thought perhaps his partner had allowed a potential buyer to borrow it to see how it would look in a home collection, a rather common practice. “I asked my partner, ‘Is the Picasso out on loan?’ and he said no, and we both turned white.”
DeLind was attempting to sell the piece on behalf of a private collector, who was hoping to receive between $30,000 and $50,000 for it.
The thief, like many before them, will probably find there’s no place to sell a Picasso that won’t contact the authorities when they realize it's stolen. “I just hope they don’t destroy it,” Goforth says. “It was a really lovely piece.”
Nicole Charbonnet, whose Batman print was stolen along with four others, said the pieces were being shipped back to her after they were displayed briefly in a gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At least one work by another artist was in the same shipment. She said the thieves ransacked the shipping company’s truck somewhere near Dallas.
“I was very upset,” Charbonnet says. “They don’t have any particular sentimental value; I work all the time and trade art for money.”
Months after the theft, Arthur Roger, owner of the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, received a call from a blocked number. The person on the other end inquired if he would buy a few Nicole Charbonnets. Roger said one of the prints may have had a label with the name of his gallery on it because he had displayed them there. They asked a lot of questions. “I think that they were looking for information,” Roger says. “Who would buy them and for how much?” Roger immediately contacted Charbonnet and the FBI.
Charbonnet said the thieves also called the gallery in Santa Fe where the works had been displayed. Failing to sell the works and apparently possessing some conscience, they arranged to leave the cache of art somewhere in the Dallas area for pickup. (The gallery did not return calls for this story; and an FBI spokesperson said they could not comment on the case.) Charbonnet said she was told that when a shipping company hired by the gallery went to pick up the art, it was not there.
Charbonnet, who describes herself as “a midlevel artist,” hoped the pieces would fetch $10,000 each. “I can sell my works in galleries and at shows,” she said, “but there is not a big secondary market for it.”
She was hoping they would be someone’s pleasure to display. Now they’re someone’s burden to discard.
Reposted from Security Management Magazine
The events of the past year have redefined our normal by transforming how we live and work. As a result, security professionals are facing unexpected new challenges.
The industry is experiencing an insatiable appetite for surveillance storage and improved cybersecurity to limit critical system and data access, but pandemic-reduced budgets are forcing security and IT teams to do more with less by maximizing efficiency and cost effectiveness. In a recent TechRepublic poll, 62% of respondents indicated tighter 2021 IT budgets, with a priority shift to work-from-home and network security technologies.
Several factors have also changed industry requirements during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Facilities impact. Relocating workers to home offices generated empty facilities with limited access, creating a management challenge for security and IT teams. Remote video monitoring and analytics became an essential tool for securing understaffed sites, powered by remote system access and management capabilities.
Civil unrest. Recent protests and violence demonstrated how video data can be utilized for real-time incident management and post-incident investigations. Citywide surveillance video provides real-time situational awareness to enable organizations to effectively manage protest-type incidents as they evolve, and bodycam video evidence is utilized daily in investigations to protect both law enforcement and citizens. With higher camera counts, better resolution, and longer retention periods, these systems generate massive video storage requirements. Their mission-critical nature often dictates high availability and enhanced data protection to minimize downtime and video loss.
Cybersecurity breaches. Recent high-profile breaches of network monitoring and video surveillance systems reinforced the need for stronger cybersecurity protection. The SolarWinds hack exposed thousands of customers with unauthorized access to critical systems, and in a separate incident, hackers gained access to live and recorded video from over 150,000 surveillance cameras inside hospitals, companies, police departments, prisons, and schools. Organizations must implement policies and procedures to protect against intrusions and develop ransomware protection strategies that include risk assessments, backup infrastructure updates, and emergency storage recovery plans.
Fortunately, newer, proven technologies can help security teams address emerging challenges by maximizing efficiency, protection, and cost effectiveness:
Consolidation. New network video recorders (NVRs) combine nearly 1PB of storage with the necessary processing power and ingest capabilities to match. Consolidated systems reduce hardware and management costs associated with complex compute and storage environments.
Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). HCI and software-defined storage eliminate the need for standalone servers by allowing multiple applications and storage to run on the same infrastructure. In mission-critical environments, HCI provides high resiliency with application failover and enhanced data protection. This resiliency protects camera recording, recorded video, and immediate access to recorded video against catastrophic hardware failure -- without the cost and complexity of a fully redundant infrastructure.
Software-defined object storage. Object storage is a relatively new, cost-effective approach to storing large amounts of unstructured data like video. Storage “objects” combine the data, metadata, and a unique identifier to eliminate the scalability and complexity challenges associated with hierarchical file systems. Adoption for video solutions has been slow due to different storage protocol requirements, but storage vendors have overcome those challenges and can now deliver surveillance-ready solutions. Object storage can also deliver cost-effective geographic resiliency to protect against catastrophic site failures for high-risk environments.
Tiered storage. Surveillance video traditionally utilizes a single storage tier, but requirements for increased retention times and redundant video copies are changing that. Many video management systems (VMS) create distinct archive tiers, and some storage providers offer automated tiering software -- enabling archive tiers on multiple storage media, including cost-effective tape with user-transparent retrieval functionality.
Ransomware prevention. Applying data management best practices to surveillance storage systems can safeguard video from ransomware threats. By protecting critical data ahead of time—whether using the 3-2-1-1 backup method (three copies of critical data, stored on two different mediums, with one copy offline and one copy offsite) or storing data in a secure private cloud—organizations can reduce the impact of ransomware on their operations.
Health monitoring and remote management. Deploying remote system management and proactive system health diagnostic tools prevents costly outages and reduces system management costs. Proactive diagnostic tools identify potential issues before they become critical, and technicians can apply the fix using remote management tools, eliminating the need for costly dispatches to access-restricted facilities.
Security teams face more challenges than ever before, but these technology advancements can help them meet the demanding requirements created by today’s new normal.
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