Surveillance Systems for Small Museums

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    • #132154

      I work for a small living history museum and we are contemplating a wireless surveillance system for a couple of our buildings to protect the artifacts on display. Are there any systems that other institutions are using that work? How long do they retain camera footage?

      If a wireless camera system is not advisable, what do you recommend? Thank you!

    • #132164

      What is it you are trying to do? – prevent theft, prevent vandalism…?  The problem with surveillance is that if no one is monitoring the images 24/7, then you will only find out what happened after it has happened.    It only takes a few seconds for someone to smash a vitrine , grab an object, and leave.  Putting more effort into measures that make it difficult – and time-consuming – to get into cases, is more likely to prevent theft.

    • #132163
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      I agree with Barbara.  Avoiding the appearance of opportunity for theft and vandalism is important.  Maybe this can be accomplished by posting guards, or posting signs that say security measures are in place.  Make sure small items are locked away or secured to the wall and behind glass.

    • #132162

      We have received some pressure to have more visible security measures. Perhaps a sign will do the trick. Most of the items that have gone missing have been crimes of opportunity, not well thought out plans of attack. I believe the thought is, if we have some video, we have a chance of recovery and identification of the thief or vandal. You both have valid points, thanks for weighing in!


    • #132161

      Don’t forget that, like department stores, most of the “disappearances” are from staff, not outsiders.  Some museums have changed their policies about access to storerooms, so curators cannot go into storage without another person going with them.

    • #132160
      Elizabeth Jablonski

      Maybe someone needs to check the bags of visitors and staff when they leave?  I’m not sure if this is very effective, or not, but it might ward off the opportunist.


    • #132159
      Les Kacev

      A few comments that might help:

      1. Having security cameras is a deterrent to theft or vandalism because people know they are being watched.

      2. Wireless should only be considered if hard wired systems are impossible to install. They can easily be hacked and provide criminals with access to what you consider valuable in your collection.

      3. Speak too a security professional whether an analog or IP system is best for your needs. Both can be viewed remotely and can email or text alarms.

      4. Systems with built in analytics are available today. Not only can they record on motion, but they can “track” movement [by this I mean “follow” people as they move through the museum].  Rules can be defined to highlight suspicious behavior and send an alarm.

      My advice is to clearly lay out your objectives and then design a system to match your requirements and fit into your budget. If need be, plan the system and then implement in phases as budget becomes available. Grants are available for security projects, or museum patrons can be approached to fund such projects. Well planned and executed surveillance systems are almost mandatory for any institution with valuable or historically significant artifacts.

      Email if you would like to discuss this topic further.

    • #132158
      Mark Ross


      We have used a specific museum sector related surveillance system for our parks that have museum collections. It is called the Acuity system, this company and its product uses the analytics in where you can define protection zones and once those zones are breached can alert you via your I-Phone or other mobile device. Additionally the system can be used with audio to advise the person who breached the zone that they are to close to the exhibit.  Additionally Acuity’s business is 95%  museum/cultural.

      You can see a demonstration of their system by going to this link:

      Like I stated above I have used this company on 3 occasions, and their product works as advertised. Additionally their installers a true professionals and versed in using great care when working in a museum setting.  They do an outstanding job in hiding the wiring to the cameras, in fact in one of our installations they used brown cabling to match the wood in a mansion.


      Don’t think you can not afford a system like this, you could start of small and grow the system.


      If you need additional information or need any assistance you can call or e-mail me.


      Mark Ross
      Regional Physical Security Specialist

      Northeast Regional Office
      Office of LE and Emergency Services

      200 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
      (o) 215-597-1270
      (c) 215-847-1811

    • #132157

      Thank you, this is all wonderful advice!


    • #132156


      I work with Art Guard, and we are just a few weeks away from launching a device that alarms individual  pieces – even very small seated objects.    It’s called Art Guard MAP (Magnetic Asset Protection).  It is both affordable and scalable.  I’d love to show you more, should you be interested.



    • #132155
      Paul Shea

      Several years ago there was a major bust of a museum thief.  He had been stealing from museums all across the west and mid-west for 30 years.  He stated in interviews that he would not steal from a museum that had obvious security cameras and monitoring.  That is how he made it so long.  He was caught by someone who noticed him walking out of a unsecured back door with a museum item.  Probably his first mistake.

      Security experts will tell you do not hide your surveillance, put it right out front so visitors see that you are watching.

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