The rhino horn on display has been replaced by a replica: museum security in Finland and England

2016-03-30T13:04:26Z (GMT) by Louise Nicholas Suzie Thomas
Museums are an integral part of the cultural life of societies. As well as intangible value, many collections may also have considerable financial value, and pose a temptation to thieves. Furthermore, threats exist from accidents, natural disasters and vandalism, among many other risks that have to be built into museums security measures. In recent years, high profile art thefts from museums and even, regrettably, acts of terror, have drawn attention to the vulnerability of museum institutions as sites of crime and catastrophe. In particular, balancing visitor enjoyment and accessibility of the exhibits with security can be difficult for many. Despite awareness of these concerns, museums security remains to date under-represented in museological discourses, perhaps in part to its perceived pragmatic nature. Another reason may be the difficulty of discussing often confidential and sensitive information in a meaningful way. In this paper, based on research carried out in Finland and England, we aim to analyse some of the key issues for museums security, which while focussing on situations in Northern European settings, have relevance for museums globally. We set this discussion against the backdrop of ethical considerations and present our methodology for both gathering the data and discussing it in a way which is both sensitive to confidentiality issues but still of use to the wider security, museums and cultural heritage sectors.