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