Protecting Art from Vandalism

The Gauguin, attacked for a second time

Emily Wax reports for the Washington Post on the attempt by a woman to damage a Gauguin painting for the second time. She gets a number of comments from various security professionals, but the best response was this one:

 Mike Kirchner, director of security for Harvard Art Museums, says the first line of defense is alert guards and museum employees. 

“Everyone has to start a relationship with a smile, a nod, a good morning with people coming into the museum,” he said. “You can scan the crowd, you can try to look for people who don’t want to make eye contact. Everyone should always be on alert.” 

The National Gallery declined to comment on Friday’s attack because the incident is under investigation. According to D.C. Superior Court records, Burns, who has schizophrenia, is under observation at St. Elizabeths. Nonetheless, some guards at the museum said Sunday that they had photocopied her mug shot and put it in their coat pockets. 

For this time, no harm done, and in the future, the best line of security (which still allows us to enjoy the art) is a friendly and active security guard.


  1. Emily Wax, Museums’ fine art of protecting masterpieces (2011), (last visited Aug 16, 2011).
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