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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Antiquity protection unit, panacea for Museum’s risk management

By Abu Momoh Sanni

According to ICOM, Museum is  not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets, and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage. Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethnically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.

Antiquity protection unit comprises of museums professionals such in charge of the knowledge, rules and principles of protection museum collections visitors lives and properties which leads into taken necessary proactive steps to ensure that all goes well. Natural functioning of museum risk management programme was enable by decree No 77 of 1979 titled the National Commission for museums and monuments ACT Chapter 242 Law of the federation of Nigeria 1990. This Act in addition spelt out the functions of the commission including its structure

The duties of Antiquity protection officers are enormous. It has grant effect on the growth and smooth operation of the museum. Report diary and investigation report are among other vital duties of the officers i.e securing museum collecting, visitor and their properties, physical security measures, threat analysis, advice management, maintenance of law and order etc. t

Therefore, it is patient that antiquity protection unit plays a dominant role in ensuring the safe custody of museums, its collections, visitors and properties for the smooth conduct of museums operation.

It has been estimated that more than 50,000pieces of art work are stolen each year around the world and the black market for stolen art is valued at between $ 6 billion and $8billion annually. (state from U.S. news). With such staggering number its concerning small institutions around the world cannot afford high technology security system or staff museum guards in every room and museum premises.

Antiquity protection officer however avoids the mistake of no doing a thorough back ground check on all staff and volunteers, allowing too many people to get access to the key to the building and the collecting storage area, securing the keys to such vital area etc.

Moreover some easy way of protecting our valuables are to establish formal opening and closing procedure.

To create check list and a note book of photos and exhibit cases. Train staff to be alert, make eye contact and greet visitors when they visit museums. It is very important for only staff responsible for the collection should have access to the key of collection storage.

Installation of fire and smoke detection and suppression. This is also vital as collections susceptible to natural disaster as well. Security should include fire and smoke detection.

Museum antiquity protection officer ensure and vets the staff. This is because the largest percentage of theft from museums are perpetuated by museum insider-staff, volunteers or board members with access to the museums or collection after hours. Many of these are theft of opportunity. Controlling access and background checks can help reduce this in your museum. It is also very important using online collection management software system to store and access important information and documents related to our collections.

This unit care for their resources in trust for the public. Also very incumbent upon them to ensure the safety of their grounds and maintain their building and minimize risk to both and collections that they preserve for future generation coriaceous proactive identification of the risk that could potentially harm people and collections of resources hence reducing the risk are vital to museum management. Museum professionals should ensure that adequate care be taken against other enemies of museums and its collections such as light, humidity and fire, parasites (insects faces, moths, weevil, bedburgs, beetles, termites etc In addition airborne pollutant e.g dust, gases etc are the most unwanted museum residents. They usually hitch a ride on human visitors. Dust is both an irritating intruder and a fruitful protagonist to unveil hidden and buried histories of museums collection These are findings and observation of Antiquity officers in their course of carrying out their duties effectively.

Furthermore airborn pollutants mingle with pullen, human hairs and textile fibers, the animal skin cells, the coal dust and minuscule road debris which gathers on surface and artifacts. They as much build an archive of past and present touches. This also applies to parasites. Not only eat through artifacts like taxidermies but also leave dropping, shed skin and move to others museums through travelling exhibitions. These unseen trouble makers are rarely the protagonist of the history of museums and still there are more and more (artistic) intervention to make the invisible visible. It must be agreed that in some developed country like Paris (muse duquai Branly) uses a sound installation to amplify the sound of wood-eating flears. It map the insect populations which entered as blind passenger the musical instruments where they enjoy their ancient meal. In this case, human are a threat to objects. They are the parasite.

Nevertheless several techniques of abjection are implemented in cultural institutions to preserves nature and maintain the evolution which has man at its peak.

The Antiquity protection unit advice management on various techniques i.e technique of abjection. The term abjection means (the state of being cast off’ The abject is a complex psychological and hingonstic concept developed by Julia Kristev in her 1980 book power of Horror. Kristeva herself commented: ‘refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live’ in practice, the abject cover all the bodily function, or aspect of the body, that are deemed impure or inappropriate for public display or discussion. But in terms of museums the above mentioned bodies of abject are being monitored and killed by an in-house pest control management. For instance, museums use pheromones to attract culprits, building traps or spray insecticide to prevent termites from making chitin, the main components of their exoskeletons without the protective shield, they die.

In addition technique care of abjection is that they devalue living beings which are crucial for our environment. Termites, for example are keystone organism because they can unlock the vast amoute  of energy stored in the wody fibers of plants. By doing so, termites help to support other species and create multiple habitats for them only through the movement of human they could have spread around the world. These entangled stories have to be made visible and spread inside museums collections to construct the link between cultural symbols (heritage preservation) and environmental significance (fungai parasite etc)

Taking into consideration of the above, the Antiquity protection officer advice the management to have a current comprehensive emergency/disaster preparedness plan that is tailored to the institution needs and specific circumstances cover all relevant threats; address staff, visitors, structures and collections; includes evacuation plans for people; specifies how to protect, evacuate or recover collection in the event of a disaster. A specific example is what happened to natural museum Akure few years ago. It is necessary for a museum to have a certificate of inspection related to the facilities and risk as appropriate to their circumstances when such certificate are provided by the inspecting agency. This risk management until should however have regular, adequate training of staff in implementing various safety equipment so as to acquire their purpose or goal

An emergency preparedness plan should be put in place including practice or drills. Inspection related to facilities and risk [fire, health and safety e.t.c as appropriate to the institution’s circumstances] a process for addressing deficient identified in the inspection; and a program of health and safety training for staff and volunteers as appropriate to the institution’s circumstances.

In conclusion antiquity protection unit professional practice facilities risk management as an institution wide activity encompassing function and diverse as building and site security, visitor service and manage risk to ensure that people and collection are accurately identify and assessed that appropriate method are employed to avoid block, mitigate, share and assume or insure against risk. It is work to note that everybody including the nonprofessional are security officers so if you see something say something. All hands should be on deck for us to acquire the desire we require.  

Abu writes from National Monument and Museum Akure


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