20 yrs later — a story worthy of Dumas — Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist

Reducing Art Theft and Other Risks

“Often, cultural property is housed in buildings that are recognized as architectural masterpieces; therefore, they carry a certain significance, or universal value. Typically, an edifice, which complements the natural landscape, is protected, designated, listed, or registered. In exchange for access to public grants and funding, there are restrictions imposed on the site in order to preserve it for posterity. Unfortunately, this creates barriers, which limit, or even prevent, the renovation and refurbishment of a preexisting site. To a certain degree this can add to the mystique of an historical landmark as a symbol of an empire’s – or colony’s – former glory. When a listed building, such as the Tate Britain, needs to upgrade or modernize its facilities for whatever the reason (safety regulations/standards, security, etc.), it must first gain the approval of English Heritage’s governing body. As Dennis Ahern, who serves as head of security and safety at the Tate Galleries, will tell you, even performing a simple function, such as repositioning a security camera, can be a tedious and consuming process.

In light of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art theft’s 20th anniversary being just a week away, Art Theft Central thought it would be appropriate to incorporate the museum in discussions related to the flexibility of altering such celebrated spaces and the implications it can have on museum security. After hurdling the rigidities imposed on the museum in Gardner’s will, the museum went ahead with a proposed $118 million expansion.”

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