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Culture: How Are The World’s Most Protected Artefacts Kept Secure?

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Humans have gathered so many pieces of precious items throughout history, with fine art and intricate jewels just a few pieces to have gathered an immense value and being linked with high insurance costs. Recently released heist movies like Marvel’s Black Panther and Ocean’s 8 may have you questioning how these assets can possibly be kept secure though.

Here, 2020 Vision, a specialist in cloud CCTV storage, detail some of the world’s most protected artefacts and then explain how criminal activity is kept at bay through the security measures which are put in place to protect the assets…

How are the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom kept secure?

The last few centuries have seen the United Kingdom’s royal family collecting a wide variety of special treasure pieces. Items include the Sovereign’s Orb and the Imperial State Crown. With 23,578 delicate stones and over 140 objects, putting an exact price on the jewels has been difficult but estimates have been made stating that they are worth over £3bn. As well as this, it has also proven impossible to insure them because of their immense value.

It goes without saying that heightened security is needed. Therefore, the collection is locked away in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. Believe it or not, the crown jewels are protected by bombproof glass and although the tower is open to the public, they’re watched by more than 100 hidden CCTV cameras.

The Tower of London plays host to a 22-strong Tower Guard as well. This is a detachment of the British Army, who has a sole purpose of protecting the Crown Jewels on behalf of the Ministry of Defense. Additionally, these guards are accompanied by 38 Yeomen Warders, who are ex-military personnel who manage the large numbers of visitors. The Yeomen are permanently present and live in the tower itself.

Only during special occasions will you over see the Crown Jewels. Coronation and State Opening ceremonies are two such instances, while they can be only removed under the authority of the Lord Chamberlain who is the head of the Royal Household. However, when this type of activity occurs, armed police officers must be present.

How is the Mona Lisa kept secure?

Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci was the brains behind the Mona Lisa. It was crafted between 1503 and 1517 and is known as one of the most recognisable pieces of art in the world. In fact, the piece itself is the most known, most visited and most written about in modern times.

The painting has the highest known insurance valuation in history too, according to the Guinness World Records. The valuation stands at $100 million in 1962. However, the inflation rate takes this up to $821,746,666.67 in 2018, making it one of the most valuable items in the world.

Other intriguing aspects about the painting is that it never made its delivery to its intended owner and was never signed by da Vinci. Instead, the work of art was sold to King Francis I and supposedly entered the Royal Collection in 1518. After the French Revolution, the painting was moved to the Louvre; what was thought to be a safe-haven for the piece — but it wasn’t.

During 1911, the painting was stolen. However, it took a few hours to realise so. French painter, Louis Béroud visited The Louvre and found that the painting was missing — he asked the guards about its whereabouts and they weren’t entirely sure and assumed that it was being photographed for museum advertisements. Béroud returned a few hours later and the painting had not been returned; it had been stolen.

The Louvre had no choice but to close its doors to the public during the entire week that investigations into the theft were held. There were many now famous-faces on the suspect list for the theft of this masterpiece, including Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso; but they were both cleared of all charges. The real thief, Vicenzo Peruggia, was found two years later when he attempted to sell the painting to a museum in Florence. It’s often described as one of the greatest thefts in the 20th century, as Peruggia stole the piece during working hours, hid in a broom closet and waited until after hours to walk out of the museum with the painting positioned under his coat. However, the thief was only jailed for six months as it was defined as an act of patriotism for Italy. The painting returned to its home in Paris.

Today, it’s estimated that six million visitors view the Mona Lisa on an annual basis. What’s more, it sits behind a bulletproof glass because of past vandalism attempts (throwing stones, acid etc.). The glass is reportedly almost two centimetres thick and the painting is held in a special sealed box that protects it from vibrations and humidity. Public visitors are separated from the piece by a queue barrier, but that is only one aspect of the state-of-the-art security systems that the Louvre has put in place.

Intruder-detection equipment that includes video analytics, access control systems and a 24-hour surveillance of closed-circuit TV cameras can all also be found throughout the 70,000 square meters of museum. They all help to protect some of the finest pieces of art in the world.

How are Sweden’s Crown Jewels kept secure?

Questions have been raised regarding the security measures setup to protect Sweden’s Crown Jewels. In August 2018, two crowns and a royal orb which belonged to King Charles IX of Sweden and his wife Christina of Holstein-Gottorp were stolen in what looked like an amateur heist.

You couldn’t always view the 400-year-old jewels in public at the Strangnas Cathedral mind. The gems were originally created as funeral pieces and were buried in the tomb with them but were later unearthed. Although the theft was premediated, it was extremely insufficient. Two men walked into the cathedral around midday and smashed the glass where the contents were held — causing alarms to go off around the building. The duo escaped from the crime scene by bicycles and then by a motorboat along Lake Malaren, entering Stockholm’s archipelago. However, one of the thieves was soon tracked down because of blood left at the crime scene and the jewels were partly recovered.

It would have been quite the difficult task for the thieves to sell the Crown Jewels on the black market though. This is purely because government authorities would be out looking for them — and no one wants to put themselves at risk of being caught. As well as this, they’re extremely valuable and the thieves would have to find the right buyers. The jewels are made from the noblest metals and the gold value is worth around £43,000.

This isn’t the only instance when the royal jewels of Sweden have been stolen, however. In 2012, a 19-year-old refugee claimed to be a friend of a member of the royal family and stole £73,700 worth of jewels — but sold them only for £730 to drug dealers for marijuana. As well as this, the thief also reportedly stole a £30,350 tiara and threw it off a bridge.

What do these examples say about Sweden’s security measures? Although the stolen crown jewels from the cathedral were on public display, they weren’t properly protected, and the thieves should have been detected as they walked in. With artefacts of immense value situated in the building, the cathedral should be looking at installing walkthrough security door frames and regular visitor searches. In terms of the theft in 2012, people with the right credentials should only be able to enter certain areas of the palace.

Sources:

https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/15/mona-lisa-was-stolen-in-1911-2/

https://www.jerrysartarama.com/blog/did-you-know-the-mona-lisa/

https://www.louvre.fr/en/security-officer

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/999615/sweden-crown-jewels-royal-swedish-police-heist-thieves-Stragnas-cathedral

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/how-much-crown-jewels-worth-11855338

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewel_House

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