Record Keeping at Booth Western Art Museum

Cameras and Digital Recorders Deter Thieves, Alert Guards and Capture Evidence of Intrusion Attempts


What is the purpose of a museum? It's a place where rare and valuable items are stored and on display. These valuables certainly need to be protected from visitors, thieves and fire. Here's an example of the type of system that goes into a mid-sized museum.

The 80,000-square-foot Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA uses its video surveillance equipment to monitor and protect valuable exhibits, including presidential letters, movie posters and contemporary Civil War art. The museum features a 140-seat presentation theater, a caf?, museum store, members' lounge and 60-seat multimedia theater. It is home to a large permanent collection and hosts visiting exhibits, all of which require protection.

Prior to choosing a video surveillance system, museum officials visited several other museums across the country to review their security systems. What they decided on is comprised of a GE digital system, consisting of: 70 fixed dome cameras, five pan-tilt- zoom cameras on the roof, and a Digiplex IV video matrix switching system.

"The cameras are 'plug and play,' because we wanted the ability to easily relocate cameras based on the current show," explains Joe Stitgen of ETC, the Atlanta-area dealer/integrator who installed the system. "Interior dome cameras were placed in positions where paintings could be watched and Security could make sure that people didn't touch, come too close to or try to steal or deface the artwork."

With eight security personnel on staff, the museum can easily monitor its own facility. Cameras can be remotely monitored from several rooms at the museum or corporate headquarters. They are strategically positioned to capture the best angle on each piece of art. Because the museum has floating walls, the ceiling was pre-wired with coaxial cable. The CCTV system can accommodate up to 80 indoor cameras.

The CCTV system is monitored 24 hours a day by a stationary guard, while other guards rove the museum grounds. Cameras can be viewed from the basement, where the head-end equipment is installed, or from a remote position at the loading dock area where the guard is located.

"We have downloaded evidence onto a CD-ROM for the city on several occasions and the Cartersville Police Department has sent everyone from the police chief on down over to review our system," states Ken Wade, Director of Facilities and Security at the museum.

The GE system is already paying off by catching potential thieves and acting as a deterrent to prospective burglars. "During a local artist's show, the cameras picked up a family-husband, wife and kids-who were attempting to remove a painting off the wall. The wife wore a large coat to hide the painting and the kids acted as lookouts. They didn't get away with the painting since they noticed security coming and quickly exited the building," Wade asserts. The cameras also came in handy during recent construction activity at the museum when Security was able to catch kids breaking in. More importantly, the public has learned about the CCTV security system, so fewer break-ins are attempted. Also, every Sunday, the cameras provide security for a large church parking lot to the east side of the museum.

"If anyone tries to break-in, every light in the facility goes on, indoors and out. There is a flat screen monitor at the entrance of the museum which we feel also acts as a deterrent. Everyone knows they're being monitored the minute they walk into the building," says Wade.

Museum officials are very happy with the system and have offered to show it to other museums looking for state-of-the-art security systems, according to Stitgen. Not only does he have a good customer with this museum; Stitgen's got an outstanding reference.

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