Museum Theft
Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
In This Issue

The Imperative to Report All Theft
Featured Course
To Screen or not to screen...Shouldn't be a question!
March 2018 Online Courses
April 2018 Online Courses
Conferences and Meetings
The Imperative to Report All Theft
By Bill Anderson, Art Guard
A recent article in a Dallas magazine reported the theft of pieces of an interactive
exhibit by a local artist from the city's Montgomery Museum. The artist created cards, which were viewed in an antique viewer from the 1900's that displayed the artist's work in 3D stereo, a pleasant childhood throwback for many people.
The curator didn't feel the theft warranted reporting to the police since the value was low and the cards, having been used over and over throughout the exhibit, would have been unusable afterward. She also assumed that the cards were replaceable. What appeared to be a casual decision on her part seemed to bother very few people other than the artist. But he took exception, pointing out that a lot of art is ephemeral, and placing a value on it is often arbitrary. His and his gallerist's argument eventually spurred a fair settlement.
So what's the big deal about a few stereo cards? This could lead into a piece about what to insure and what lengths to go to for protection in a museum or any other facility that displays art. But there's another important point here. Her decision not to report the theft reflects a common attitude in the market: that reporting a theft may be more trouble than it's worth, especially if a work of low monetary value is involved. She may have thought it was an inside job, which could be addressed internally. Or by not reporting it was she intentionally protecting the museum, whether she suspected an eventual insurance payout or not? The fact is that no museum or public institution wants the sort of attention that might question its ability to protect objects in its care, especially works on loan.
Whether intentional or inadvertent, a major problem in the art market continues to be the failure to report a theft. Any organization charged with recovering stolen works or researching theft will admit to having little idea of the problem's dimensions. A preponderance of anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that instances of theft from museums are far more numerous than what gets publicized. And what gets publicized is overwhelmingly tilted toward cases solved and art returned to its owner. This "good news" environment contributes greatly to the market's blasé attitude about theft. And so that extra layer of security that could ensure protection gets sidelined in favor of other pet projects. And we begin to think that theft is no longer a problem. Just what any thief would hope for.
Let's treat a theft as theft and we'll all know what the score is.
Reprinted with permission from Art Guard.   
Featured Course: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs

Volunteers are essential for most non-profit institutions. But good volunteers
aren't born -- they are made. Even though they don't get paychecks, it takes time and money to have effective volunteers. Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs teaches the basics of a strong volunteer program. Topics include recruiting, training and rewarding volunteers, as well as preparing staff. Instruction continues through firing and liabilities. Participants will end up with sound foundational knowledge for starting a new or strengthening an existing volunteer program based on a nine-step process.
Want to learn more about the managing a volunteer program?  Join Karin Hostetter for  MS108 Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs  starting March 5, 2018.
To Screen, or NOT to Screen....Shouldn't be a question!
By Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI, Founding Director, IFCPP
Reprinted from October 2015 Collections Caretaker

Volunteer Recognition Luncheon
I once asked a museum director if his institution did background screening on its volunteers. "Are you crazy," he replied. "If we did that, we wouldn't have any volunteers."   I'm not sure if that was an indication that none of them would pass the screen, or if none of them would submit to it.  
All of us recognize the many benefits a strong volunteer program brings to an institution. In many places, volunteers far outnumber paid staff.   Without the work they provide, some programs could conceivably be lost.   We forget, however, that volunteers are just "people." And people, given the right opportunity, steal. People, with the proper motivation, take advantage of other people...financially, physically, or even sexually.   It logically follows, therefore, that any "people" brought into the workforce, regardless of whether or not they are compensated, should undergo a reasonable screening of their background and character. This is exactly the language used by the courts in examining cases of negligent hiring.   We screen to protect the good people in the workforce, visitors, and other volunteers, from being subjected to or exposed to those who would take advantage of them, or cause harm.
The level of depth of the screening should be dependent on the applicant's exposure to people and access to assets.   ALL applicants should undergo a thorough check for criminal histories. It should be asked on the application and verified by a records check. This may be done directly through the courts or through a professional background service.
If the applicant is serving to greet guests, has access to no keys, assets, or classes with minor children, then minimal screens may be performed.   The information on the application needs to be verified. If a falsehood is discovered, the process is over and the application should be denied. This includes employment history, driving record, education, licenses or certifications held. Credit histories should be performed on all of those persons who will handle cash or accessioned artwork.
Everyone should be able to account for their time, for no less than the past ten years. You have to be somewhere....gainfully employed, in school, in the military, undergoing health care...or in prison.   Some records must exist, somewhere, which verifies this existence. Women who were married and not employed should have access to tax records showing a joint return for the time period in question.
If volunteers are asked to perform certain tasks with special knowledge or education, they should be trained identically to paid employees who perform those tasks. The bottom line...Volunteers are worth their weight in gold. Just be sure they're not taking the gold with them....
Stevan P. Layne is the principal consultant and chief executive of Layne Consultants International, a leading provider of cultural property protection advice. Steve is a former police chief, public safety director and museum security director. He is the author of Safeguarding Cultural Properties: Security for Museums, Libraries, Parks and Zoos, and the Business Survival Guide. Steve regularly presents to professional associations and has consulted with more than 400 museums and other institutions. Steve is the founding director of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and responsible for the professional training and certification of more than 1,000 museum professionals. For more information visit his web site  Layne Consultants International.
Early Bird Discounts Available for Full Length Courses
An Early Bird Discount is available for anyone who signs up for a full length course from 30 days prior to the start of that course.  
Sign up for a full length course up to 30 days prior to its start and save $100.00!
For our course list or to sign up:  
To take advantage of this discount, you must enter coupon code EARLYBIRD at checkout at
The Early Bird Discount deadline for April courses is March 10, 2018  
March 2018 Courses 
March 5 to 30, 2018
Instructor: Karin Hostetter
Volunteers are essential for most non-profit institutions. But good volunteers aren't born -- they are made. Even though they don't get paychecks, it takes time and money to have effective volunteers. Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs teaches the basics of a strong volunteer program. Topics include recruiting, training and rewarding volunteers, as well as preparing staff. Instruction continues through firing and liabilities. Participants will end up with sound foundational knowledge for starting a new or strengthening an existing volunteer program based on a nine-step process.
March 12 to April 13, 2018
Instructor: Sue Near
Sound business practices are critical for a museum to fulfill its mission. Sounds like vegetables, right? Museum management is complex. A museum exists to preserve collections and educate, but it is also an institution that must employ sound business practices while being accountable to the public as a non-profit organization. Instructor Sue Near teaches participants how to administer a successful museum efficiently and effectively. Participants will engage in discussions about the changing cultural climate and its effect on museum operations.
March 5 to 30, 2018
Instructor:  Diana Komejan
Archaeological finds come out of the ground fragile - and they often stay that way. Yet archaeologists and museum professionals have few clear guidelines for handling, moving, storing and displaying such materials. Participants in Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab learn techniques for safely lifting and packing artifacts, safe transportation and temporary and permanent storage. The course also covers a broad range of excavation environments; including the Arctic, wet sites, tropical and temperate. Though Care of Archaeological Artifacts is not intended to train archaeological conservators, it is designed to help participants understand what can and can't be done to save the artifacts they unearth.

April 2018 Courses
April 16 to 20, 2018
Instructor: Diana Komejan
As we march boldly toward the 22nd century, artifact collecting includes that most fragile of materials - plastic. Not only is it in our collections, but it is used to house our collections, too. What problems have you seen? What problems have others seen? What materials are best? What can we, as caretakers, do to minimize long-term damage? Join Diana in this mini-course for discussing care and deterioration of plastics. Bring any questions you have about plastics in your museum.
April 9 to May 18, 2018  
Instructor:  Kimberly Kenney
Acquiring and holding collections impose specific legal, ethical and professional obligations. Museums must ensure proper management, preservation and use of their collections. A well-crafted collections management policy is key to collections stewardship. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions helps participants develop policies that meet professional and legal standards for collections management. Collections Management Policies for Museums and Related Institutions teaches the practical skills and knowledge needed to write and implement such a policy. The course covers the essential components and issues a policy should address. It also highlights the role of the policy in carrying out a museum's mission and guiding stewardship decisions. Participants are expected to draft collections management policies.
April 9 to May 4, 2018
Instructor:  Sarah Kapellusch
A collection database is a necessary tool for accurate and efficient collections management. In Collection Management Databases you will learn what characteristics distinguish one database system from another; how a database can be used to manage inventory, conservation, pest management, and other aspects of collections management; as well as how to prepare your collection and documentation for entry into a database.
April 9 to May 18, 2018
Instructor: Diana Komejan
Outdoor sculpture, silver tea service, gold jewelry, axe head, wheel rim - metals are found in most museum collections and may be stored or displayed indoor or outdoors depending on the object. Learn how to identify different types of metal and their alloys. Gain an understanding of how and why metals deteriorate and methods for preventing deterioration from occurring or continuing. The pros and cons of different popular treatments will be covered along with recommendations for the least damaging approach to treatment. Care of Metals provides a simplified explanation of the chemistry and structure of metals, explaining the importance of the galvanic series and electrochemistry in care strategies. Starting with an overview of the history and function of metals and how they are made, the course will cover guidelines for handling, labeling, exhibiting and storing metals. An overview of treatments, including cleaning, used on metals and how appropriate they are for the long-term preservation of the metal object will help students make care decisions when consulting with conservators.
Conferences and Meetings
Arkansas Museum Association, Calico Rock, AR
March 26-29, 2018 
Museums Association New York, Rochester, NY
April 8-10, 2018
Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums, Cheyenne, WY
April 12-15, 2018
Texas Association of Museums, Houston, TX
April 18-21, 2018
Museum Store Association, Washington, DC
April 27 to 30, 2018
American Alliance of Museums, Phoenix, AZ
May 6-9, 2018
AAMG & UMAC Conference 2018, Miami, FL
June 21-24, 2018
Association of Midwest Museums, Chicago, IL
July 18-21, 2018
Society of American Archivists, Washington, DC
August 12-18, 2018
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Dunedin, New Zealand
August 25-September 2, 2018  

Mountain-Plains Museums Association, Billings, MT
September 11-September 15, 2018
Oklahoma Museums Association, Edmond, OK
September 19-21, 2018
American Association of State and Local History, Kansas City, MO
September 26-29, 2018
Southeastern Museums Conference, 2018 Annual Meeting, Jackson, MS
October 8-10, 2018
International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA
October 13-17, 2018 
Western Museums Association, Tacoma, WA
October 21-24, 2018 
New England Museum Association, Stamford, CT
November 7-9, 2018
National Association for Interpretation,  
New Orleans, LA
November 27-December 1, 2018
National Association for Interpretation, Denver, Colorado
November 12-16, 2019

National Association for Interpretation,
Saint Augustine, FL
November 10-14, 2020

Submissions and Comments
How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  
If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to .  
We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 
Have a comment or suggestion?   
Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.
Helen Alten, Director
Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager