Thursday, 7 December 2017

IAASF: International Arts and Antiquities Security Forum

The International Arts and Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF) is a leading conference and exhibition dedicated to the protection of arts, antiquities and cultural heritage. Providing those involved in the protection and safe custody of buildings, artefacts and events with an understanding of existing and emerging threats that can impact them. This year Andy Davis, Chairman of IAASF, kindly invited UKRG Committee members to attend their 2-day conference at Kensington Olympia and as a group we wanted to feedback to the membership on the insightful and interesting talks we attended.
Adversarial Threats to the Arts, Antiquities and Cultural Heritage Sectors
Professor Erroll Southers, Managing Director – Tal Global Corporation
Our first talk of the day was delivered by Professor Erroll Southers, former FBI agent in counterterrorism, Professor of Practice of Governance at University of Southern California, Managing Director in counterterrorism and infrastructure protection at TAL Global Corporation to name but a few of his achievements.
Professor Southers delivered a fascinating talk focusing on the different types of threats cultural institutions are facing in today's world. Although theft continues to be a threat we must protect ourselves against, we are now becoming targets for ideological attacks. This can be in the form of physical attacks on cultural sites or through the sale of looted property to fund causes.
To mitigate the risk of these types of attacks, Professor Southers recommended sites ‘reverse engineer the plot’ in order to understand where their weaknesses may lie. He also recommended using external consultants to find information we, as institutions, don’t think can be found.
Importance of Planned Protection – Meeting GIS Standards
William Brown, National Security Advisor, Arts Council England
William Brown attended the conference and delivered a talk on meeting GIS standards and risks to be aware of when assessing venues. Things to consider included:

  • Site locations: remote locations may be at higher risk of theft as response times or even ability to respond may be significantly reduced.
  • Natural forces: although not a common occurrence in the UK we should be ensuring we consider venue locations in terms of typical weather, both domestic and internationally
    • Are they in an area susceptible to storms, floods, brush fires, earthquakes, volcanoes?
    • Athough not common the UK has experienced forest fires in recent years
  • Cyber threat: can venue information be accessed remotely? Is your site or the borrowing venue on Google Maps and how much can you see?
William also emphasized the reputational risks museums face should they be the victims of theft or damage, accidental or malicious. As an example, William discussed the recent cases of the Maple Leaf coin at the Bode Museum in Berlin and the University Museum of Bergen. Both situations were pventable using simple measures to ensure the security of collections. William highlighted the need to demonstrate a proactive, not reactive, approach to security whilst also highlighting the need for ongoing training. Museum staff need to be aware of their responsibility for museum collections and equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to protect them. 
Jenni Fewery, Assistant Registrar, Science Museum

IAASF: Protecting Cultural Venues from Fire

Protecting Cultural Venues from Fire
Stewart Kidd, MD Loss Prevention Consultancy Ltd.

Stewart Kidd kicked off after the break on the first day to speak about Protecting Cultural Venues from Fire, a topic which I think covers some of the worst nightmares of a registrar!

Stewart shocked us all to begin with by stating how at present there is no data for UK heritage properties fires, meanings that we don’t actually know how many heritage buildings are damaged or destroyed by fire each year. This is a statistic that Stewart is hoping to change, after personal research he believes that there has been approximately 600 fires in Scotland’s historic buildings alone.

To prevent a fire you must first know what main causes could be for example; arson, cooking, electrical equipment and contractors. Whilst fire services will advise you about the law, their first priority will always be humans and not objects. This is a legal compliance that must be considered.

Stewart continued by discussing in detail his opinions on fire suppression systems, stressing the point that you should choose your system carefully. Fire is of course very destructive but the impact of firefighting can also cause just as many problems, leaving a mess, water and stability/structural damage to the building. Powder systems Stewart believes will destroy everything and should not be used. Similarly foam provides no benefits, it is acidic and can cause environmental problems for a building. There are also several different suppression systems that require buildings to be airtight to work … as we all know, this is usually not possible with historic buildings! 

Overall Stewart is an ambassador for sprinkler systems in historic properties. He believes they are hugely effective and are particularly beneficial for buildings that are not attended very often. Sprinklers work on heat not spoke and there is a high probability of getting a property back to normal soon after a fire. It is important to not mix up sprinklers however with mist – insurance providers are yet to be convinced by mist systems. When considering installing sprinklers, which for many may seem far too much a risk particularly around works of fine art, consideration must be taken for restrictions that may delay the fire services; geographical location, routes, access and time.

Fire can destroy hundreds of years of history in a matter of minutes, is your fire suppression system up-to-date?

Ellie Saggers, Assistant Registrar, The Fitzwilliam Museum

IAASF: Effective use of personnel in protecting cultural venues

Effective use of personnel in protecting cultural venues
Andy Davis, Chair IAASF

Andy’s key message was that security is everyone’s responsibility.

When designing a security programme Andy suggested that you may wish to consider; 
  •  What you want it to look like 
  • Involvement of ALL departments – you will need to understand everyone’s needs to resolve all risks and threats to your cultural venue, other departments security priorities may be different to your own 
  • Physical, technical and operational possibilities
Andy continued by discussing how you must create fundamentals, what assets at your venue need protecting? Thinking not only about the risk but also vulnerability, if known about there is a possibility it can be managed. The talk continued onto asset identification, after all you need to know what your assets are in order to protect them. To name but a few assets; the building, paintings/objects, people/staff, computers, visitors, infrastructure, information (technology and data), a venues reputation. It is essential that you know what your cultural venues assets are so that you can put a plan together to protect which can then give you direction. 
Sharing knowledge is essential so Andy emphasised how once you have a policy in place, make sure it is shared with everyone in your organisation. You should also think about training opportunities and education for staff which will then enable them to identify suspicious and normal activity.
Andy left us thinking about two acronyms he used; TLC (Think like a criminal) and TLT (Think like a terrorist). In order to have a policy you must first think like a criminal or a terrorist to discover what threats and risks exist in your cultural venue. 

Ellie Saggers, Assistant Registrar, The Fitzwilliam Museum

IAASF: Technical Security and Adversarial risk to places of Worship

Technical Security – Applications to Protect Cultural Venues
Peter Houlis, 2020 Vision Managing Director & The Security Institute Director 
Peter gave a good insight into the technical elements which we should be looking at in terms of our security adhering to current standards.  
Some of the technical systems we employ are for;
  • Fire detection 
  • Humidity detection 
  • CCTV (network video)  
Applications: To Deter, Detect, Delay and Respond (The technology gives you the information so you can respond proportionately – in a timely manner!) Time is critical. 
Some of the more relevant standards which we should perhaps know about are; 
  •  European Standards for Intruder Alarm Systems BS EN50131 Series. This is replacing old British standards. All new installation should meet these new European standards. Insurance companies will take note of whether the systems meet the new standards.
  • IEC 62676 Series provides recommendations and requirements for the selection, planning, installation, commissioning, maintaining and testing video surveillance systems (VSS) comprising of image capture device(s), interconnection(s) and image handling device(s), for use in security applications
The key points for reference: 
  • Some alarm systems are now voice responsive via motion sensors. This can be useful for works of art on open display when a particularly intrigued visitor steps over the barrier. The alarm responds with a warning to the visitor asking him to please step back.
  • Intruder detection systems do now come with heat sensors. Infrared detection might notice a person entering an area without authorising or at least identify that it was a cat that set off the alarm! 
  • Installation of access control and swipe card technology is increasing and the technology becoming more intelligent. 
  • Communication systems are improving – between security guards, control rooms, and other members of staff (no need for those walkie-talkies or shouting across gallery spaces!) 
  • Common routes for illegal access – roof lights, windows & vents 
  • Some alarm companies which might be worth looking at: 
    • Salco 
    • X-tra sense 
Adversarial Risks to Places of Worship and other Historical Sites  
Alastair Calton, Westminster Cathedral Head of Security & ASIS Cultural Property Council 
Alistair gave a very personal and emotional response to the Terrorist threat recently encountered at Westminster and described the measures that have since been in place. He also explained the very different security risks which the Cathedral, as a religious institution, faces.
  • Risks to the Cathedral – people  
Generally a museum can spot suspicious behaviour as museum visitors generally conform to prescribed behaviour patterns. A person acting drunk or twitchy would be quickly identified and ushered out of a museum – at the Cathedral the opposite is true as the mission of the cathedral is a spiritual one welcoming in one and all. Therefore the risks and threat assessments sometimes have an unusual response and can present conflict. For instance if the Cathedral leaves donation boxes out overnight they are a sure target, of course they don’t leave all of the money but if an attack is going to happen the intruder is going to be determined to take something – better some of the donations rather than the 15th century gold and bejewelled cross.
  • Risks are analysed by a series of Situational Risk Analysis Sheets. These answer a series of hypotheses and evaluate the best outcome and proportionate response to Risk.  
  • Is it part of the job to accept Risk? The cathedral – as the museum also experiences – cannot close its doors or not loan objects for example. 
  • Focus is on limiting the impact if something happens. 
  • Since the Westminster attack the cathedral has identified local doctors/medical practitioners who could be called upon in an emergency. Invested in paramedic standard response kits etc to limit the effect of an attack. Is this something museums could do more of? 
  • Risk is identified through the outcome of a given situation and the level of casualties, damage etc in whichever form that might take 
  • Security guards are encouraged to interact with the visitors, they welcome visitors, talk to them, occasionally cover retail roles, so they gain more information about the visitor profile. 
  • Security is a concern for all, not just the security team. Volunteers, Visitor Assistants are generally the first responders. They engage with the visitors, know the visitor profile the best and can detect unusual behaviour, repeat visitors etc – do they know who to tell if something is off, how to respond or engage that visitor? 
  • Risk is also, of course, about reducing likelihood but also reducing the consequence of an attack.  
Emma Denness, Exhibitions Registrar, Royal Museums Greenwich

IAASF: Physical Security; Target Hardening Cultural Venues.

Physical Security – Target Hardening Cultural Venues. 
Stuart Williams, Head of Security Consulting, BB7

Stuart Williams is the Security consultant for the Louvre Abu Dhabi which has been 10 years in the making. Since its inception, he has gone on to consult on the wider cultural sector growing in Abu Dhabi, including the new Guggenheim.

This case study presented the ideal security solution to the modern museum, which has the benefit of money, time and starting from scratch. The main take home points (as well as lots of lovely pictures of the new Abu Dhabi Museums):
  • Retro-fitting always costs more – plan for your ideal security solutions at the outset. 
  • Make security a priority in the original design brief. Architects will ignore you if the outline is not in the original brief. 
    • Think of location of windows – there are no windows on the ground floor of the Louvre Abu Dhabi 
    • Think of visitor entrances – the Louvre Abu Dhabi has two foot bridges crossing an expanse of water to prevent vehicle attacks 
    • Think of security screening for vehicles – the Louvre Abu Dhabi has an underground tunnel with several check points – if a bomb is in a vehicle it will go off underground and before it reaches the museum 
    • Think of Visitor out of hours access eg. for events – the Louvre Abu Dhabi has cleverly designed security gates across the site which can be locked after hours to prevent unauthorised access. They blend in with the design of the building but are impossible to climb over or force 
    • Think of surrounding area – Louvre Abu Dhabi was built with water on 3 sides; the ocean and a series of water features preventing easy access by boat. The local government security polices the water (may be a conservation issue but those medieval castles had moats for a reason!). During the early design stages they also moved a road and a canal away from the site.
  • Think about large object entry – can it be hidden/ disguised? 
  • Technology, Technology, Technology – will make your security efficient and seamless, but remember, it is only as good as the people using it! Think about Training and Education for your security team. 
  • The human element is always going to be the weak point in your security systems 
  • Form scenarios, such as forced entry, snatch and run etc - test your processes & procedures. 
  • Speed – on average the length of an attack from entry to exit will be under 3 minutes. How does this resonate with your Emergency Response Plan? 
  • VVIP’s can be patted down too! 
Emma Denness, Exhibitions Registrar, Royal Museums Greenwich

IAASF: Smart Water and future-proofing Syria’s history

Charity Session – Trails, tribulations and sacrifices of future-proofing Syria’s history
Phil Cleary, Smartwater Foundation

The work of the Smart Water Foundation is dangerous, forward thinking, fast acting and absolutely essential to protecting our cultural heritage. Smart Water Technology can give artworks, antiques and any collection items their own unique data code, which makes them traceable in the event of crime. Following application of a B72 base coat, Smart Water Solution holding encrypted data, is applied directly to the collection item and sealed with a top coat. This is invisible to the naked eye, but glows under a UV light and when tested and matched to the entry in the Smart Water database, will link the object back to its owner. The process and application of the solution is completely reversible by specialists, in-line with modern conservation requirements. It is a technology being used increasingly in public and private collections across the globe to give additional protection from theft, or increased chances of having your stolen objects returned in the event of theft.

Where this technology is being used most effectively is through the company’s charitable arm, the Smart Water Foundation. At present, the Foundation is working with archaeologists in Syria to protect its cultural heritage from the ISIS threat of theft and black-market trade. The illicit trade of stolen artefacts, including mosaic panels, sculpture, statues and church interiors, is ISIS’ second largest source of income and so putting a halt to this destruction of culture goes deeper than preservation.

Phil told us about the covert missions of archaeologists across ISIS territorial borders in the dead of night to apply Smart Water solution to precious heritage sites and artefacts. They must break down all of the chemical components, carry them individually and travel in groups with the tools spread between them because if they were captured by ISIS and found to have this equipment with them, there is little doubt they would be executed. Slowly, the teams are making their way across the country invisibly marking precious heritage with its own DNA. The hope is that should anything end up with a dealer or museum, Smart Water can determine where it came from and one day it can be returned.
An archaeologist working covertly to apply Smart Water solution to a Roman Mosaic in Syria

Sarah Hardy, Loans Coordinator, The British Library

IAASF: Iconic Public Venue Security & The Criticality of Insurance

Iconic Public Venue Security
Garry Evanson, Head of Security and Emergency Planning, Westminster Abbey

“Everyone is welcome, but their stuff isn’t!” was the overriding sentiment in Garry’s talk about how to protect such an iconic religious landmark, that by its very nature welcomes everyone in. Since Garry began working at Westminster Abbey in 2001 he has led his team to safely welcome 1.6 million visitors per year. The first step for him in this mammoth task was to implement bag searching, something he recommends as absolutely essential, as is not allowing anything larger than a handbag. Not only are there space constraints inside the Abbey, but bag searching is instantly a deterrent to anyone who might be planning on more than just a visit.

Garry’s second recommendation for security at attractions and cultural venues is that security staff be regular employees of the institution, whose sole responsibility is security. Westminster Abbey employs its own security staff who work alongside visitor service staff but their role is distinct and defined. They wear uniforms which clearly mark them as security, again, as a deterrent against potential incident.

Challenges in the future for the Abbey are whether churches and religious sites might become targets for Islamic extremist driven terrorist attacks. Sadly, Garry and the team have had very recent experience of what this might look like with the London Westminster Bridge attacks earlier this year. Whilst a horrific ordeal to go through, Garry has learnt from this an ensured that the emergency plan is up to date and that all staff are trained and prepared. They’re all ready for the next coronation!

The Criticality of Insurance
David Scully – Specialist Independent Insurance Consultant

The recent sale of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi for $450million, has set the art insurance world alive with alarm. If insurance values for artworks should represent ‘fair market value’ then this sale poses a huge problem for museums which pay an annual premium to commercial insurers to cover their collections. Whether underwriters will start expecting to see higher premiums paid to cover masterpieces remains to be seen, but another high value sale such as this one will clearly aggravate the debate.

Advice from David Scully to this end is to consider whether fully comprehensive insurance is definitely required. For example, it might be better to cover your permanent collection with a depreciation exclusion. The artwork is irreplaceable and any monies paid can only usually be used on the collection. Is it therefore necessary to cover the potential reduced value in an irreplaceable work? It’s worth thinking about if it could reduce the premium. David also discussed that organizing a deductible with the insurer might bring the premium down significantly. If you could cover the deducible from existing funds, then the saving on the premium you make annually might better go towards education or expanding the collection.

As museums are under increasing pressure to cut expenditure, this might be a sensible and realistic option for saving cash whilst still ensuring the collection is protected.

- Sarah Hardy, Loans Coordinator, The British Library

Friday, 3 November 2017

Changing the face of the Art Industry Charlotte Maxwell, Founder of the Easel Initiative

UKRG Event 'Mind the Gap', Friday 20th October 2017
Chapter Hall, Museum of the Order of St John, London 

Charlotte was inspired to set up the Easel Initiative following her experience running an internship programme for a London auction house and seeing how difficult it was to get that first job.

In a sector where internships play a large role this limits the opportunities for those without the connections and funding to access and undertake these.  Employers are also missing out on potential talent by ‘fishing from a small pool’ of those who can. Promoting equal opportunity and accessibility is essential to address the imbalance which affects cultural engagement in the UK.

For those without connections in the industry there is also a lack of awareness about the huge range of roles within the arts and it is these gaps in knowledge, contacts and funding which this initiative sets out to address.

Following a successful crowd funding campaign the Easel Initiative is now 2 months old and they have been very busy. There are now online resources to introduce interested students to key magazines, books, news and even Podcasts and Instagram accounts (I’ll be checking some of those out).

There are insights on their blog into the different types of jobs available in the arts – including a day in the life of Crown’s Sara Kellett . A mentoring scheme will launch next week. In early 2018 a grant scheme will start to subsidise internships and provide assistance with relocation to London and in June 2018 a careers fair will be held in London.

Large public bodies, such as the National Galleries of Scotland, have a transparent volunteer programme which prevents nepotism so it would be easy so say that this issue is not a problem for public museums and galleries. However, many people begin their career in the arts in a commercial gallery or auction house setting, so increasing diversity in this area benefits the whole sector.

UKRG members are fortunate enough to already work in the cultural sector, but a show of hands during this event showed we are all aware of the lack of diversity. So what can we do to actively encourage and support new and more diverse entrants to the sector?

The Easel Initiative is focussed on London so for those of you who are in London based galleries can contribute by spreading the word about their programme and volunteering for their mentoring scheme. The rest of us can advocate and raise awareness of opportunities in our own region and challenge the diversity of our own organisations all at levels.  

Maybe one of the preconceptions we need to question to increase diversity in the sector is the assumption that you have to make the move to London? For many reasons, not everyone can or wants to make that move. True, size means there are many more jobs in London than any other city; however there are many opportunities in the cultural sector outside London and with the move towards increased funding in the regions these are set to grow.

Thanks to Charlotte for the interesting presentation and Blackwall Green for the travel bursary.

By Jacqui Austin, Lead Registrar: Loans, touring & partnerships, National Galleries of Scotland

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

"Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Panel Discussion and Questions from the Floor

The final talk of the CPD event was a panel discussion between Sunnifa Hope, Helen Dawson, and Jen Kaines, chaired by Lyn Wall.

The first question raised, “What has been the most challenging decision you’ve had to make whilst on a courier trip or whilst hosting a courier?” gave many amusing stories of disappearing curators, unfinished galleries, and even guest couriers turning up ‘the worse for wear’. Clearly, couriering objects and hosting couriers is not always a simple task, and requires the ability to think on your feet.

The importance of good communication was also highlighted through the examples given to this first question, with Sunnifa Hope summarising “it’s about communication, having dialogue, deciding together what you’re going to do to allow the installation to happen. Just be prepared to come up with solutions with the courier and talk to them continually, whether it’s “you’ve got to stop doing this” or “can I do something this way?”

Questions raised by the audience emphasised the importance of decision making during courier trips. When asked if the panellists had ever decided not to install an object, and what happened afterwards, Jen Kaines provided an example of arriving at a gallery still wet with paint. In that instance, she and her colleague made the decision not to install at that time (installing around a week later instead). 

Likewise, Sunnifa Hope described a time she and a colleague had to decide what to do when a power cut meant that an installation had to stop and they had to decide whether to pack away the objects completely and return another time, or come back that day when the power came back on and work late into the evening (they did the latter).

Other than showcasing the importance of good communication, thinking on your feet and being confident in your ability to make the best decision for yourself and the object, the panel discussion gave further advice: sometimes a borrower may request a courier to be sent or a lender may request a courier from your institution; you can sometimes double-up your couriers tasks, so they can visit long-term loans as well as installing the new ones; and when sharing couriers, make sure it is explicitly decided what the responsibilities are and who can make the decisions (all the better if you can get something in writing).

So to end with the final section of the panel – Top Tips:
Sunnifa Hope – “You’re representing your institution, make sure you understand exactly what your loan is and the requirements of your loan are so that you can make decisions on the spot. And don’t plan anything else around that trip!”
Helen Dawson – “Know your object – not just how to install it but what might it do in a changing environment, how might it behave after a bad journey.”

Jen Kaines – “Never pass up a toilet stop, you don’t know when the next one will be.”

Sam Jenkins, Assistant Registrar, National Railway Museum

The Shipper’s Perspective, Julie Prance, Oleg Mazin, Thomas Webster, Momart

Julie, Oleg and Tom from Momart, kindly provided advice to couriers for airfreight shipments. Their aim to provide details on what we can expect from the shipper and to make the courier feel confident in asking the right questions, so that the transit goes as smoothly as possible.

Starting with the preparation, Julie explained her role as Project Co-ordinator. This role liaises direct with the sending and receiving airline, ensuring the correct type of pallet and freight is booked.
The Projector Co-ordinator will also provide a full itinerary for the courier. This provides all information that the courier might need for their trip. It is really important for the courier to check this before their trip to ensure they understand the plans.

Tom and Oleg are airport representatives from Momart; they began by explaining the importance of setting expectations with your airport representative. Question your representative from the outset to ensure you know exactly what is going to happen to your consignment and when. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, after all, you might not be aware of the local procedures.

For example, what type of aircraft is being used?
Is a container or a pallet being used?
Will the representative see the pallet loaded on the aircraft themselves? The answer in the UK, is ‘yes’ however this can’t be the case in other countries.
What happens to the pallet when it is packed? You want it stored in the ETV system so that it’s safely stored away until it’s time to load the aircraft.

When overseeing palletisation, note that a sheet of plastic will line the base of the pallet, crates will be placed, strapped down (listen for the ‘click’), the sides of the plastic will be bought up and another sheet covers the pallet, before netting is draped over the whole pallet. Ensure to ask your representative before hand, if you need it in flight direction and be aware if the crate can be stacked or not.
When pallets are shared, the airport representative will ensure that no dangerous or perishable goods are loaded on the same pallet.

You may have your consignment in a container, again, you need to ensure you inform the representative of any requirements in good time, and in both cases, it’s very important to make a note of the pallet or container number that your consignment(s) are on, so they can tracked.

Now that the pallet (or container) is loaded, check you are clear on the next steps with your representative. You will need to check in to your flight, but make sure you have your mobile switched on! Ensure the representative gives you the position on the plane – and do not board the aircraft (if it’s a passenger flight) until you have this information! If on a cargo flight, you should receive a phone call from your agent after you have boarded.

To end a few dos and don’ts from Julie - do have a mobile phone (ensure that the shipper has your number and that it is always switched on). If you are asked to report to Customs, make sure you do, otherwise its smuggling and don’t declare the consignment as your personal goods – it is cargo!

Enjoy your flight!

Vicky Skelding-Bloor, Exhibitions and Loans Officer, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Training Framework Continued, Courier Manual - At the venue, dealing with the unexpected and courier dos and don'ts

Building on the earlier sessions, Lyn Wall continued to run through the Courier Training Framework document.

Arriving at the destination was discussed and some key top tips suggested:
  •          If arriving at an airport you would usually be met by a transport agent to be taken to witness de-palletisation – sometimes at the aircraft door or in the arrivals hall.
  •        Don’t declare the shipment as personal goods as it is cargo!
  •     If you are couriering on a Ferry don’t expect to stay with the vehicle/object - you are not allowed to stay in the car deck for health and safety reasons.

At the venue
  • ·         Be prepared to work in an unfamiliar environment with a new team.
  • ·         Be confident but diplomatic.
  • ·         When supervising unloading be alert to any hazards (busy roads, weather etc) and respond appropriately (ask for polythene if raining, ask for hi-vis jackets, extra equipment).
  • ·         If the work is being securely stored prior to installation check the arrangements are suitable and then make sure you understand what time and where you need to report back for installation.
  • ·         Upon installation preparation is key! Do you have a clean and safe space to unpack, do you have the right tools, do you have the right paperwork? Use your common sense and never be reluctant to ask a question!

·         Remember you should have the support of your colleagues at home if you need it.

Dealing with the unexpected
Lyn explained that a good way to check whether the courier training had been successful was to run through the scenarios provided in the pack.  By using the interactive element of the training it is possible to sense what areas learners might need extra support with.
During discussions about the scenarios with the UKRG audience some recurring messages emerged:
  • ·         Communication is the key!
  • ·         Raise issues early, speak up if not happy but also offer solutions.
  • ·         It is important not to have any restrictions about your trip – don’t organise personal appointments that might impact on your role as a courier.
  • ·         The object is the priority.

There was useful discussion with the transport agents in the room about loose loading (when packing crates were not loaded into an aircraft on pallets or containers). It was generally felt that this should be avoided but important to take advice. Some organisations might have a policy that it was never acceptable but other museums might allow it depending on the object and circumstance.

The discussion reiterated the recurring theme of the day that the framework was a flexible tool that had elements that could be tailored to each organisation. This has made it an incredibly useful document to follow producing a standardised approach to courier training.

Alice Rymill, Registrar, Bristol Culture: Bristol Museums and Art Gallery

The Training Framework, Courier Manual - Preparing the loan and the courier, condition reporting and the journey

What is a courier not?  On holiday.  The session opened with an ice breaker about what a courier is and is not.  Without doubt, the most common response was this: that a courier is not on holiday.  We all laughed, but probably because it sounds very familiar.  I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been encountered a bad courier at some point.  Whether they’ve come with a loan to your exhibition, or maybe it’s been someone from your own institution, or you’ve travelled with one with a joint consignment, it can be a frustrating, even nerve-wracking experience. 

The event today was all about trying to prevent exactly these types of experiences this within the sector through the new Courier Training Framework.  Developed by our very own Kathy Richmond, DesirĂ©e Blomberg of the Nordic Registrars Group and Wendela Brouwer of Nederlandse Registrars Group, it’s a sort of SPECTRUM for couriers, designed to standardise and improve the role of the courier for loans and exhibitions. 

Ours was a whistle-stop tour through the training framework.  This session delivered part one of the training, focussing on preparing the courier to leaving the borrowing institution with the loan.  It covered everything from managing the expectations of the courier (it’s not a holiday in case you forgot) to teaching them how to read a condition report.  It looked at what preparation they, as the courier, will need to do before a trip and what preparation the institution (usually the registrar) will do for them. 

I think the emphasis placed on reading the condition report is one of the strongest aspects of the training framework.  It aims to explain both why the condition report is so important and also to build the skills required to confidently condition check and use the condition report when on a courier trip.  I know this is the area I am least confident about when couriering (Why is that old scratch not marked?  DO I NEED TO MARK IT?  Or is that just me?).

First impressions of the framework are that it is easy to deliver, thorough and adaptable.  Every aspect of a courier trip has been thought about carefully and where information is organisation specific, a handy set of prompt questions has been provided.  We’re definitely planning to roll it out at National Galleries of Scotland and I hope others will be too.


Cassia Pennington, Exhibitions Registrar, National Galleries of Scotland

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Day in the Life - Sara Kellett, Head of Museums and Heritage, Crown Fine Art

Early mornings remind me why living 10minutes away from work is a complete blessing. One podcast and a brief walk later I arrive at our loading bay where 2 of our techs are making coffee and waiting for a courier to arrive - last night one of our vehicles collected works ahead of an early start this morning and they're getting ready for a long day driving to the Netherlands. By 7:00am the courier has arrived, her suitcase is in the cab, the final works are loaded and with a final coffee/croissant for the road the team are on their way. I head to my desk and open emails - the estimates I requested earlier in the week from US agents have arrived, perfect. It might seem productive to come in early ahead of the office getting busy but in reality it just means Gavan and I have coffee and catch up - Gavan heads up our galleries team so he fills me in on what his team are working on at the moment. A commercial gallery are visiting later in the week to discuss a project he’s co-ordinating and they're loaning a lot of works to an upcoming exhibition I’m working on so I make a note to be available to say hi. 

Everyone else starts to arrive in the office and the flurry of calls from our technicians updating us on terrible London traffic begins. One of our first jobs for the morning is a private address and someone has parked their luxury car in the middle of the road causing chaos, our technicians sit tight and we check in with the clients this will effect over the upcoming couple of hours without trying to make this sound too ludicrous a reason for a delay. It's Tuesday today so we leave this with operations to monitor and head to our weekly team meeting. We’ll chat through what we're working on, recent feedback, distribute some new projects and discuss the upcoming week. As ever after the meeting my to do list is looking significantly longer than before. 

After lunch Meredith has met with one of our technical project managers and updates me on a current exhibition she's coordinating, the works are all large and need to go up a large staircase when we deliver. A few ideas discussed and she's back off to the lenders again to discuss the method statement for moving the works up the staircase further.  

The vehicle that left this morning for the Netherlands is making good time so I call the venue - we'll still be there around 4pm to unload. Other good news of the day is that the owner of the parked car has returned. Hurrah!

All estimates from our team are double checked before being sent out so Tony and I look through one I drafted yesterday - Tony highlights a couple of my tying errors (to my annoyance) and we chat about a possible alternative routing to my proposal. We can't contact the lender so we both agree the route proposed is the most likely, but include cost for alternative routings/notes on other thoughts and yet another estimate from me is accompanied by a small essay of notes.

I go back to my inbox, reply to some more emails, make some more calls (as ever talk too much) and check my calendar. Wednesday is our day for 45minute training, I'm scheduled to lead the session tomorrow and following on from our refresher training at the airport a couple of weeks ago its courier based so I gather the courier information I've been saving and print everything out ready. Somehow its gone 5pm so I check everyone is on track to leave in the next hour – remarkably everyone is. The techs delivering in the Netherlands ring me to say they’ve offloaded, the vehicle around town is back too so I call it a day and try to remember what I said I’d get from Sainsburys for dinner!        


I May be Some Time: Caring for our Heritage in Antarctica

Camilla Nichol
Chief Executive
UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

It is almost 250 years since Captain James Cook set out from Whitby in search of the southern continent. Since then and even before, man has had a fascination with the great white continent – it has presented the greatest challenges of endurance, survival, science and exploration.

[Fig 1. Captain Scott at the South Pole]

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust was established in 1993 with ambitions to ensure the legacy of past human endeavour in Antarctica was secured for future generations. This work continues today through the management of six historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula and through our support of others Polar heritage organisations across the world.
The six sites we care for represent different periods in British Antarctic involvement and science on the Antarctic Peninsula since 1944. They are designated under the Antarctic Treaty and we are obligated to protect them from damage, removal or destruction.

[Fig 2 Base A, Port Lockroy, Goudier Island, Antarctica 1944-62]

Conserving Antarctic Huts
Managing historic sites in general is complicated, time consuming, resource intensive and requires expertise, judgement and compromise. Managing heritage in Antarctica is all of those things tenfold!  These wooden huts are placed 9,000 miles away from the UK in the middle of a frozen wasteland on harshest continent on earth. You can only access them via ship, and getting to them can be difficult and at times impossible.

Port Lockroy is the most visited site in Antarctica. As well as the museum, Port Lockroy also has a functioning Post Office and gift shop. The museum and its artefacts tell the story of those who lived and worked in this isolated wilderness.

 [Fig 3 museum display at Port Lockroy]

The other sites are significantly harder to get to and are unsupervised. This means that conserving them can be much more problematic. We do what we can to stabilise the structures and make sure that they are weatherproof as possible to prevent them from deteriorating and to help protect the artefacts within. We want to keep them standing so that they can be around for future generations because all of these sites are irreplaceable and once lost will be gone forever.

The Challenges
There are a number of challenges we need to overcome to get this work done each season. Working in such cold conditions means that work is inevitably slower, fatigue can set in more quickly, fingers become clumsier and solvents will cure glacially slowly. So progress is never achieved at speed and a season’s work can sometimes seem paltry.

[Fig 4 Annual maintenance of the windows at Port Lockroy]

Despite the Antarctic’s incredibly low rainfall, damp is a significant problem and mould in the more northerly sites can be a problem. Similarly, achieving good ventilation to dry out timbers comes at the expense of weathertightness, as any gap will be severely exploited by wind driven snow and ice particles during the winter resulting in build-up of ice inside the buildings.  

[Fig 5 Build-up of windblown snow in Base W, Detaille Island]

The long daylight hours and the strong UV levels in Antarctica also are a severe problem for many artefacts and the damaging effects of UV are soon apparent.
Normal museum pests are, mercifully, not such a problem, but other wildlife can prove destructive – gentoo penguins nest very close to, on and under buildings and are not shy about where they leave their waste. Fur seals can be both dangerous and clumsy, are curious, and often force their way inside structures.

[Fig 6 a common museum pest in Antarctica]

Who is it for?
The primary audience for our heritage sites are the tourists who visit, however we champion Antarctic heritage through many other forums so that it can inspire people all over the world with the stories of exploration and heroism that have come from Antarctica.  
Port Lockroy gets around 18,000 visitors a year. The other sites, due to their precarious locations are visited by many fewer people.

[Fig 7 Visitors at Port Lockroy]

Most people will never visit our museums, however, the stories they carry can resonate with people all over the world. Through our grants programme we support polar exhibitions and galleries across the world and engage with people online through a plethora of digital media. We share stories of the buildings, the animals, and the people who lived there.
So, Antarctic conservation is certainly fraught with difficulties, but needs to be conducted with the same rigour, thoughtfulness and insight as any conservation project in more temperate climes. 

Find out more about us, our work and our grants programme at

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tales of an Expat Registrar - by Brandi Pomfret

For those who I haven’t met yet, I’m Brandi, and I’m an British-American Collection Manager and Registrar who, after being born and raised in the US, moved last year to London in order to try my hand at the art world on this side of the pond. 

I’m sure all Registrars across the world can name the ways in which we are similar, despite our geographic locations – arranging transport of loans and exhibitions, confirming the packing of artworks are up to a universal standard, and, of course, metaphorically holding the hand of panicked couriers – but what has struck me since relocating is how different we are as well.
The easiest and most obvious is of course our terms for items of our daily life.  Growing up with family members from opposite sides of the ocean taught me at an early age of things like pram/carriage, pictures/movies, and aubergine/eggplant, but not until I had worked in galleries and museums was I introduced to Registrar-specific differences like skate/dolly, lorry/truck, and boot/trunk.

Non-surprisingly this has been the easiest hurdle to overcome, whereas perhaps the most complicated would be the role of the Registrar (and note for ease I will include Exhibition Managers in this term “Registrar” as well, since in my vernacular it references working with collections or exhibitions).
In the US, the Registrar is, among other things, responsible for all condition checking and packing of works.  Though I and my former colleagues are used to being questioned by UK lenders as to why the Registrar (rather than Conservator) would be condition checking a work with them, the full extent of how much Registrar responsibility is allocated to Conservators in this country had never fully sunk in.  I even heard recently of private collectors arranging a house move with a Conservator rather than a Registrar; having them arranging the packing, shipping and relocation into storage is truly baffling to my US senses.  It’s perhaps for this reason that I’m finding less occurrences of contract Registrars working on museum exhibitions, and with private collectors and foundations, whereas it is near standard in the US.
In my now 7 months of direct experience with UK trucking, I can assuredly say that couriers here are blessed with their required overnight stops (as opposed to our 3 day non-stop journeys from California to New York), as well as having lorries driven by members of the company you contracted for the job, not the usual husband and wife (and sometimes dog) teams you get in the US!

I doubt the idea of National collections not insuring their works will ever cease to give me heart palpitations, especially when lending between institutions, and that’s not to mention the concept of “non-national” and “designated collections”.  In the US, all collections are commercially insured, even those we deem our “national” collections.  Our other option - US Indemnity - is a lengthy, arduous process that occurs twice a year for exhibitions, not for temporary deposits or long loans in.  Please be kind to those US Registrars asking you seemingly crazy questions while they work on their applications, because they’re well over 100 pages and I can guarantee that no one enjoys doing them.  I’d take a UK indemnity application in a heartbeat compared to the alternative, though in a similar vein, the UK’s export licenses (for those works not covered by OIEL) are complicated and completed by Registrars, whereas the customs brokers complete these on your behalf in the US.  So perhaps it all balances out in the end!

At the recent UKRG conference in Edinburgh, we listened to a talk about changes in property laws, and I was amazed to hear that the UK didn’t have a procedure in place for deaccessioning portions of collections.  The United States has long standing laws governing museums and their collections, with specific information on deaccessioning (  In the past decade, many states have individually addressed the issue of undocumented and abandoned property as well, outlining their requirements for disposing of these works which have long languished in institutions. It is a complicated process – many times involving posting ads in newspapers and strict timelines for attempting to locate owners – but it does exist.
I’m sure I could expound endlessly on my experiences thus far, but in all honesty, I feel I’m only just beginning to understand the intricacies of working in this amazing country.  My friends and colleagues here in the UK love to laugh about some of my American phrases (I apologise now to anyone I’ve confused or bemused by “reaching out” to you via email), but I’m grateful because each time it serves to remind me how even the smallest differences register to a Registrar. One thing I know for sure: the US and UK are better places because of us.

Brandi Pomfret is the owner of Echelon Arts Management and currently a maternity cover Collection Registrar at the National Gallery.

Friday, 2 June 2017

"Fashion and Style at National Museums Scotland: Acquiring Contemporary Fashion", Georgina Ripley, Curator, Modern & Contemporary Fashion & Textiles, National Museums Scotland

UKRG Event: “Kanwe, Acquirem & Howe LLP!”: Museums, acquisitions and the Law
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Friday 21st April 2017

Talk: "Fashion and Style at National Museums Scotland: Acquiring Contemporary Fashion", Georgina Ripley, Curator, Modern & Contemporary Fashion & Textiles, National Museums Scotland

In the realm of acquisitions most of us are familiar with gifts, bequests, and purchases from dealers or auction houses. When it comes to expanding a collection of modern fashion, there are other, less travelled avenues into which you can delve, each with their own unique challenges and unusual procedures.

The closing talk of the event was given by Georgina Ripley, Curator, Modern & Contemporary Fashion & Textiles, National Museums Scotland. With a collection of international significance and the third largest collection in the UK, expanding the modern part of the museum’s textile and fashion collection has required a more creative approach in the pursuit of new items.

Going directly to designers is one of the ways in which Georgina has sought out new pieces for the collection. Approaching the designers in this way and developing the relationships with them has led to the museum acquiring better pieces, styling them faithfully with the help of the designers for display. Previously they had more access to watered down versions of catwalk pieces, but by heading directly to the designers they have been able to acquire better examples of their work and enhance the collection. However in some cases the museum has missed potential acquisitions because of the difficulties in contacting the designers, competing for their attention during busy periods in the run up to fashion weeks. Knowing that the designers work to schedules six months in advance and understanding when fashion weeks fall can help to ensure you don’t miss out.

One of the acquisition channels that many of us would be familiar with on a personal rather than professional level are websites such as Ebay and Net-a-Porter. For the acquisition of shoes Net-a-Porter has provided an invaluable resource for the museum, yet it has also presented challenges regarding payments and invoicing, as well as use of images. As a large retail brand it has been difficult to find a suitable contact to help resolve these issues, and required a lot of perseverance on the part of the curators. Ebay, despite their deadlines for bids and the risk of being outbid at the very last minute has also provided some key acquisitions. Items can however be hard to authenticate, and with our increasing emphasis on due diligence this can be a concern for registrars.

Whilst these new means of acquiring items for the collection are still being established the museum’s approach has had to be flexible at times, but it has also been important and possible to uphold the practices and procedures that the registrars strive to maintain. With shipments, for example, designers would pack the items as they would for a customer. The museum found a compromise by sourcing a courier company that also works with museums in order to please both parties. As Georgina concluded, it is important not to lose sight of the museum processes and that the registrars become your best friends at this time, guiding you through what can be done to get these items safely into your care.

Francesca Sidhu, Exhibitions Manager, Victoria and Albert Museum

"Legal Title Law Reforms for Museum Property and Financially Motivated Sales", Professor Janet Ulph, School of Law, University of Leicester

UKRG Event: “Kanwe, Acquirem & Howe LLP!”: Museums, acquisitions and the Law
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Friday 21st April 2017

Talk: Legal Title Law Reforms for Museum Property and Financially Motivated Sales
Professor Janet Ulph, School of Law, University of Leicester

Janet has been working with DCMS and the Scottish Government on reforms that could make it easier to establish Legal Title for objects in museum collections. “Orphan” objects with little to no documentation are protected under the Interference with Goods Act 1977. There are legal and ethical risks to museums or galleries if they dispose of objects under Possessory Title.

The Prescription and Title to Moveable Property (Scotland) Bill would allow museums to gain Legal Title if the original owner or successor has not made a claim in a 50 year period and cannot be contacted. This period is important as it complies with the Human Rights Act and does not interfere with an individual’s right to their property or possessions. There is strong support for this bill and it may be amended to include clauses for restitution claims, from Holocaust survivors for example.

There is similar consideration for reform in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Cultural Collections Bill. A 30 year period may be preferable as it is possible that long-serving members of staff would have some memory of the arrival of the objects or possible contacts.

Janet presented examples of financially motivated disposals to illustrate some of the legal and ethical issues. One case study concerned the sale of Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman by Tower Hamlets. Purchased by London County Council in 1962, the land the statue was on passed to Greater London Council, then Bromley Council, before finally being sold to Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets lent the sculpture to Yorkshire Sculpture Park from 1997 and made the decision to sell in 2012.  Tower Hamlets had not had Legal Title to Draped Seated Woman; that had remained with Bromley Council as the sculpture was not a permanent fixture on the land. The Judge ruled that Legal Title rested with Tower Hamlets after committing a tort of conversion by lending to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Bromley Council had not registered any objections or claims in the six years following the loan, as required under the Limitation Act 1980, and while the sale was not necessarily ethical, it remained legal.

Janet also presented a case study of the attempted sale by Kirklees Council of Francis Bacon’s Figure Study II (valued at £60 million). The original conditions of the acquisition prevented the council from selling; as a gift from the Contemporary Art Society, any attempts at disposal would result in the Council losing ownership.

The MA Code of Ethics does not prohibit disposals entirely, but there are restrictions. The Royal Academy was permitted to sell a Leonardo da Vinci cartoon (The Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and St Anne) to the National Gallery in 1962 as this kept the work in the public domain and continued to serve long-term public interest. The disposal of the Sekhemka statue by Northampton council in 2014 was not considered to be ethical as it was financially motivated and sold to a private individual outside the UK; Northampton Museum lost its Accredited status in this instance.

Determining Legal and Possessory Title can be more easily resolved if there is supporting documentation. The Prescription and Title to Moveable Property Bill and the Cultural Collections Bill should simplify the process whereby museums and galleries can gain Legal Title over those objects.

Amy Brown, Assistant Registrar, Science Museum