Security systems keeping our national treasures safe

There are billions of pounds of art exhibits covered by the Government Indemnity Scheme – thanks to top-level security solutions – security solutions that are available to all architects and developers, says Toby Humphreys, Product Development Manager of industry-leading physical security specialist Charter Global.


In August, the Museums Association, National Museum Directors’ Council, Science Museum Group and the Art Fund raised the alarm over the ‘quiet crisis’ in the UK’s museum infrastructure. They called for investment to protect the many priceless collections in the care of museums.

By October, a £250m Cultural Investment fund was announced with the priority of spending on the physical care and repair of museum and gallery buildings.

With funds for modernisation available, museums also have the chance to review and update their security package to ensure that they meet the Government Indemnity Scheme (GIS) standards.

There are 2500 museums in the UK and their economic value to the nation is estimated to be £1.45bn – but many of these venues would not be able to exhibit high-value items without the backing of the GIS.

The scheme provides cost-free indemnity cover for loss or damage to art or cultural items on loan. It covers loans from private lenders in the UK and abroad, as well as loans from UK non-national museums and galleries.

One element of GIS compliance is for museums and galleries to ensure the optimum standard is in place. Offering an alternative to the cost of commercial insurance, GIS allows organisations to display art and cultural objects to the public that might not otherwise have been shown due to the high cost of insurance.

Equally, the Government Indemnity Scheme would not be possible without an understanding of the security systems required to secure and protect the valuable works of art.

The standard of bespoke, high-level, security solutions required for GIS compliance is also available for architects on projects in prime domestic and commercial applications.

Charter Global has secured galleries and properties of high value globally for 15 years and offers value engineering as well as the highest possible standards of physical security.

Bespoke security systems should be specified at the optimal standard, and Charter Global has a proven track record at the very top level.

The recently refurbished MK Gallery in Milton Keynes is one institution to have benefited from the GIS scheme – and Charter Global’s help.

The significant security requirements – on top of the demanding renovation – made for a complicated project timeline. The incredibly impressive public gallery was designed by 6a Architects. Thanks to their work with Charter Global, the gallery was successfully indemnified and set to kick off an ambitious exhibition programme in 2019.

The stunning £12m project features five exhibition galleries and an auditorium for up to 200 people. It has completely rejuvenated Milton Keynes’ landscape. With high numbers of visitors expected, the design had to protect the building against all and any credible threats.

Charter Global was approached during the early stages of designs to provide a high-security solution to cater for both GIS general conditions and safety concerns for staff and visitors.

MK Gallery is the most recent regeneration project to specify minimum LPS 1175 Issue 7: SR4. ‘LPS’ stands for ‘Loss Prevention Standard’ and LPS 1175 is one of many LPS standards by the LPCB (Loss Prevention Certification Board).

The LPS 1175 standard focuses on the physical security of ‘intruder-resistant building components’, which includes strong points, security enclosures and any products that fall within those categories, such as doors and shutters.

Charter Global has an established range of products available as a certified solution to LPS 1175, as well as being the first to manufacture, supply and install an LPS 1175 SR5 security shutter.

As for safety features, controls were incorporated on the project for remote confirmation of opening and closure through status indication. The gallery’s loading area was located on the other side of the gallery to the security reception; therefore, remote closure minimised incidents of human error and internal sabotage.

Two further security roller shutters were provided for the personnel fire escape to and from the bright feature fire exit staircase. Both also certified to LPS 1175 Issue 7 SR4, these heavy-duty pieces of machinery were connected to the fire alarm interface with battery back-ups.

This high level of security provides the indemnifying bodies with the reassurance that every possible step is taken to secure valuable works of art on loan at UK museums and galleries. This reassurance is also available to commercial and prime residential properties, with solutions available to mitigate low- to high-threat scenarios.

The latest Government figures show that the Government Indemnity Scheme has “indemnities in force” for artworks valued at £18.7bn – with this much money involved, the security systems have to be the very best.

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