Msn Nat Conf March2009


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Update insider theft museums, libraries, and archives.

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  • SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION, MARCH 1‐4, 2009, SANTA FE, NM FOLLOW‐UP TO: … AND THE CURATOR DID IT By Ellie Bruggeman on behalf of the Museum Security Network At the 2005 National Conference in Las Vegas Ton Cremers discussed the 7 years thieving spree of a curator at the Army Museum Delft (the Netherlands). This follow-up focuses on the different directions from which the threat of insider theft may come and further illustrates the characteristics of this threat.
  • According to the National Stolen Art File of the FBI about 80% of the resolved art thefts in museums and libraries were inside jobs. The scope of 'inside job' is broad. Basically, it includes all thefts involving people with a position of trust in relation to the victimized institution. Such a position of trust can be given for the work they do or for the purpose of enabling research.
  • Inside jobs also include thefts that are carried out with the help of insiders. Such as the Van Gogh Museum robbery in 1991. This robbery was set up with the help of two security guards. One former guard and the other on duty at the night of the robbery. Another example: the former head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Department, Dr Abdul Shanab who, in return for bribes, provided smugglers with certificates showing genuine artifacts were imitations, as only replicas can be exported under Egyptian law.
  • Many people working at museums, libraries and other cultural institutions have access to the collections. The positions of employee thieves ranged from curators and directors to security guards, janitors and volunteers. Including both long-term employees, up to 30 years, and temporary personnel such as students for summer jobs and interns. Contract employees can require access to the collections for their work as well. Last month David Slade pleaded guilty to stealing over 30 of the most valuable books from the de Rothschild’s family library. Slade was hired by the de Rothschilds to catalogue their family book collection and obtained part of his position of trust because he was the former president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom (ABA). He however severely betrayed this trust. What he did not know was that Christie’s did audit the collection before he started and his four year lasting thieving was eventually discovered when a subsequent audit was carried out. [Pictures: de Rothschild estate and David Slade] Employees of contractors do fall into this category as well, but their work in collection areas is most times well supervised. Art transportation and storage companies do also handle collection objects and have suffered insider thefts, but these did, as far as I know, not apply to objects of museums or other cultural institutions. [Painting "Untitled 1982" by Jean-Michel Basquiat: Stolen May 4th, 2005 from Kennedy Airport, while being shipped by Christies to a buyer in Rome and recovered in a New Jersey warehouse, two weeks after the theft. Stolen by a truck driver, Anthony Porcelli Jr.]
  • The trust to access collections is also given for the purpose of enabling research. People who receive such access range from students and scholars, of the own institution as well as from related institutions, to private researchers, including collectors and dealers. This group is much larger for libraries and archives as one of their main tasks is to make their collections available in the interest of research. Research of museum collections is generally only accessible for selected outsiders, such as students and scholars. Thieving visitors often enlarge their access privileges by increasing their position of trust by establishing friendly and familiar relations with the staff. The wealthy businessman Farhad Hakimzadeh was described by the British Library as "eminently characteristic of our group of readers". But despite his outward appearance and being a millionaire with his own vaunted book collection, and a respected author, Hakimzadeh was a thief who mutilated great part of the 16th-century literature of Eastern explorations of both the British Library and the Bodleian Library in Oxford.
  • Most thieves with access privileges for their work at the institution steal from collection depositories. At such locations the chances of rapid detection of missing items are smaller and if many people have access the number of possible culprits is high. Even though in court thieves often plead for diminished capacity due to kleptomaniac disorder, most insider thefts seem to be committed by opportunistic thieves. The valuables are easily accessible and the chance to get away unnoticed are perceived as high. In most cases the final trigger to steal is the financial value of objects in combination of either debts or greed for a more extravagant lifestyle. Only in a few cases other motivations such as revenge or building a private collection where indicated.
  • Other vulnerable collection objects to consider are those on loan for the decoration of offices and board rooms. The past few months the Netherlands, France and the UK gave updates about the objects missing from their national collections. These objects are dispersed over the buildings of governmental institutions including embassies all over the world. It is not yet clear which part of the missing objects is (simply) mislaid and which part is lost by theft. For example, civil servants who had them in their office may have taken them home when retiring. Last October Reuven Sade, the deputy mayor of Safed in Israel, was indicted for stealing six paintings by Mane-Katz from the city hall. The paintings were stolen in three separate break-ins all without signs of broken windows or doors. Sade might also be involved in the theft or sale, as he also owns an art Gallery, of other works of art from the city including paintings by Manet and Delacroix. [Pictures: the paintings of Emmanuel Mane-Katz shown provide an example, but are not those stolen]
  • Burglaries and robberies were more often staged to conceal the possibility of insider involvement. For example: William Crumpton, a former night watch of the Georgia O'Keeffe museum staged a burglary and reported a painting ‘Red Canna’ stolen. He said he did so to punish his employer. The ‘Red Canna’ was almost immediately found in a storage closet inside the museum, but the painting 'Special No. 21’ (Palo duro canyon, TX) which he probably stole from another employer, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, is still missing. An employee of a church institution in the Netherlands even flooded a storage area to conceal his thefts: the possible culprit could be anyone of the parties involved in the rescue and treatment of the severely molded book collection. The real culprit was eventually caught when a dealer recognized a book he was offered for sale as belonging to the collection of the Church institution. But in most cases stolen objects are smuggled away silently, during work. By starting the working day very early or working late and in the weekends. The thieves often appear to be the most zealous workers of all. The curator of the Army Museum in Delft started early in the morning to easily load all thefts of that day into his car that he parked at the inner court of the museum. Other smuggling occurred in bags that were not checked or hidden underneath clothes. John Nevin, who stole over two thousand objects from the Victoria & Albert museum during the 40’s and 50’s of the 20th century, even managed to smuggle out a table by dismantling it and carrying it out of the museum bit by bit in his trouser leg.
  • Sometimes the stolen items are replaced by replicas. Such as the Radya Pustaka museum in Indonesia where five ancient Buddhist statues were replaced with imitations. Several employees of the museum turned out to be involved. For this theft an arrest warrant is also issued for Hugo Kreijger, a Dutch expert on Southeast Asian artifacts. He is charged with falsifying documents to enable the sale of the stolen statues. The archeologist Lambang Purnomo [photo] played an important role in the investigation of these thefts, but had to pay with his life. He was found killed in February 2008. Also the winged seahorse that was stolen from the Uşak museum in Turkey was replaced by an imitation. Last month the director and several other employees were convicted for this theft and other stolen artifacts belonging to the legendary treasure of King Croesus also called the ‘Lydian Hoard’. Another threat is the replacement of the institution’s collection objects with lesser quality objects from a personal collection.
  • When insider thefts occur, either by co-workers or visiting researchers, more than precious collection objects are lost. In both cases the staff is betrayed by trusted people who covered their criminal activities with ‘friendly and trustworthy’ behavior. Without doubt most people to which your collections are entrusted are no risk, but one rotten apple can do a devastating lot of damage. To protect both your staff and collection from this threat you need to be able to trust on your security system in which protection measures from both the security and collection department are combined. At the main web address of the Museum Security Network articles about incidents with cultural property and security and safety issues regarding cultural institutions are organized per subject. For a collection of articles regarding insider thefts visit: .
  • March 2009: The Museum Security Network has been on-line for over 12 years! The Museum Security Network was founded by Ton Cremers December 1996 and has been on line since. The main focus of the Museum Security Network is to collect and disseminate information about incidents with cultural property and security and safety issues in museums, libraries, archives, churches and other cultural institutions with valuable collections. Subscribers to the Museum Security Network mailing list receive this information on a daily basis. The subscribers come from all over the world and include museum and library professionals, specialized police authorities and journalists, international cultural property organizations, universities, auction houses, private collectors, art historians and archaeologists. The Museum Security Network on line activities are a not‐for‐profit endeavor. To browse the archives and to subscribe to the Museum Security Network mailing list to receive daily updates (free service), visit: . Also, never hesitate to contact us: [email_address] Ton Cremers, the founder of the Museum Security Network , has been working for over 20 years in the field of cultural property protection. Ton Cremers works worldwide as an independent museum security consultant and interim manager. In recent years he worked on projects in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Zimbabwe. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on cultural property protection and author of several publications on security and safety in cultural institutions, including the development of a security and safety audit software tool for museums. Contact: toncremers@museum‐ Ellie Bruggeman is co‐moderator of the Museum Security Network mailing list . She graduated in logistics and security management and works since 2004 as an independent security and safety consultant. Currently she performs security audits and coordinates several projects supporting regional groups of cultural institutions to strengthen their emergency response planning. Contact: Jonathan Sazonoff assists the Museum Security Network as contributing US Editor . He also publishes a leading web‐site ( about art theft & stolen art. He's been cited as an expert on art crime in print and broadcast media; and has signed on to produce a television series based on his work, "Art Theft ‐ Search for the World's Most Wanted Art". Contact:
  • Msn Nat Conf March2009

    1. 1. Follow-up to: … and the curator did it
    2. 2. Inside jobs <ul><li>FBI National Stolen Art File: ~80% of resolved thefts inside jobs </li></ul><ul><li>Theft abusing a position of trust </li></ul><ul><ul><li>given for the purpose of work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>given for the purpose of research </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. Inside help <ul><li>e.g. </li></ul><ul><li>1991 robbery Van Gogh Museum the Netherlands </li></ul><ul><li>2002/3 antiquities smuggling Supreme Council of Antiquities Egypt </li></ul>
    4. 4. Access for work <ul><li>Employees </li></ul><ul><li>Contract workers </li></ul><ul><li>Employees of contractors </li></ul><ul><li>Art transportation/ storage </li></ul>
    5. 5. Access for research <ul><li>Students </li></ul><ul><li>Scholars </li></ul><ul><li>Private researchers </li></ul><ul><li>Collectors </li></ul><ul><li>Dealers </li></ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Motivations <ul><li>Building private collection </li></ul><ul><li>Revenge </li></ul><ul><li>Statement </li></ul><ul><li>Removing critical data </li></ul><ul><li>Uncontrollable urge to steal </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunistic theft </li></ul><ul><li>Financial value </li></ul><ul><li>... </li></ul>
    7. 7. Objects used for decoration <ul><li>Missing objects from national collections </li></ul><ul><li>City Hall Safed, Israel </li></ul>
    8. 8. Hiding insider involvement <ul><li>Georgia O'Keeffe museum </li></ul><ul><li>New Mexico Museum of Art </li></ul><ul><li>Church institution, the Netherlands </li></ul><ul><li>But mostly silently smuggled away </li></ul>
    9. 9. Hiding thefts <ul><li>Uşak museum,Turkey </li></ul>Radya Pustaka museum Indonesia
    10. 10. Inside jobs <ul><li>Serious threat </li></ul><ul><li>Protection is combined effort of security and collection department </li></ul><ul><li>Collected articles about insider thefts: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
    11. 11. To browse archive and subscribe: museum-security-network THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION Online for over 12 years!