Protection of Cultural and Heritage Sites

Wednesday, 10th June 2020

Art and cultural heritage that is seen as an extension, or causation of modern day racism is under attack. Many museums, galleries and private homes have items that could fall into this category, how much are they at risk? What is being done to protect and preserve these items so that what happened in the past will never happen in the future?

Protection of Cultural and Heritage Sites

Following the murder of George Floyd protest marches have taken place all over the world, most have been peaceful and very dignified, sending a powerful message.However, a worrying trend is that historical sites and artefacts are now being targeted because of a perceived or implied association with historical injustices and racism. UK protesters have now drawn up a ‘Hit List’ of statues and monuments that they want to attack and bring down because they are associated with the slave trade, discrimination, and exploitation. But what next? Where is this going to end?

Most of history is strewn with injustices carried out against one race or another, not for any racist intent but for power and control of people, places, and resources. Many artefacts that came from these historical campaigns are now housed in museums, galleries, and private homes around the world.

For those organisations involved in the protection, preservation and displaying of art and historical artefacts an additional concern over and above COVID-19 has now raised its head and that is the spectre of exhibitions and displays being targeted because of an association with past injustices and racism. Irrespective of people's viewpoint, protesting is okay (and fully supported) damage and destruction is not!

The following are sensible actions that historical and cultural venues can take to try and protect their artefacts from the threat of violent protesters:

  • Risk Assess: Review the artefacts and exhibitions that are on display and assess the risk of damage and destruction caused by violent protesters.
  • Placement: Consider removing from display or placing in a position/manner that protesters cannot reach or cause damage to the item.
  • Operations: Review your existing operations, are they commensurate with the risk. If there is a low exposure to this threat source then the potential harm may be low, if however the impact is high then remaining closed may be a better option. Do you need to open to the public? Can you control restrict entry?
  • Physical Security: How robust are your physical security measures, are you able to ‘lockdown’ if protesters targeted your premises?
  • Emergency Actions: Are your emergency actions up to date and understood by everybody. Is there a fire strategy? (retail outlets suffered arson attacks at the hands of protesters in Belgium) Do you have the appropriate equipment to handle an emergency? Is there an up to date contact list for staff and emergency services?
  • Staff: Are there enough security staff on duty to prevent an attack? Is there a need for non-security staff? How many? Are you meeting your duty of care obligations to staff and other visitors to the premises? 

The list is not exhaustive, but if you start to consider these areas there is a likelihood that you will be able to minimise your exposure to the damage and destruction that has happened elsewhere. 

If you are uncertain of sensible actions to take please liaise with your local police or if you want specialist Cultural Protection Services our team is ready and able to support your venue, Contact us.