Security for art’s sake

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NORWOOD, Mass.—Installing a high-tech security system in a museum styled like a Venetian palace presents some unusual challenges for integrators. In the process of installing such a system in Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, CGL Electronic Security, based here, had to make considerations both technical and aesthetic.

“As you can imagine, the most difficult part of this was aesthetic, and maintaining the architectural integrity of the building,” said Mike McGuirk, sales manager at CGL. “We had to provide a state-of-the-art system that nobody knows is there.”

While the security system may be off the radar, the museum itself, set in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, has been anything but since 1990, when it became the scene of the most infamous art heist in recent memory. A pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers raided the museum in the wee hours of the morning after St. Patrick’s Day and made off with $500 million worth of paintings, including works by Rembrandt and Vermeer that were among the museum’s priciest masterpieces.

In the museum, whose interior contains a courtyard adorned with colonnades, sculptures and lush flower gardens, CGL installed an integrated C-Cure 800 security management system manufactured by Software House, which features integrated access control and IP video.

Throughout the installation process, CGL, a Security-Net partner, sought feedback from the customer. “Given the high-end nature of the project, the architect and designer were very involved,” McGuirk said. “There was more of a direct line to the customer, with daily questions and answers.”

One of the primary challenges of the installation, McGuirk said, was merging the museum’s existing security infrastructure with CGL’s new upgraded system. Some of the challenges were strictly functional, while others involved just getting the systems to work closely together.

CGL, which has a staff of 32, has completed installations in the museum vertical before, but mostly with museums on college campuses, such as Boston University and Brandeis, where they’ve installed CCTV and card access systems. Jack Cashman, security systems administrator at the Gardner Museum, praised CGL’s approach to the job.

“Quality was not sacrificed for speed, and they dealt with a very complex design and aggressive installation timeline in a professional way,” Cashman said in a prepared statement.