Protecting Fine Arts and Other Valuables.

Fine art is more than just a painting hung in a campus art
gallery or on a library wall. It could be a rare book that was
donated to your institution to advance scholarly pursuits,
antique furniture that has been collected over time, or a
stained glass window or rug that you acquired for its beauty.
These items are assets and should be protected against
theft, fire, water and other causes of damage.

Step 1: Take Inventory

Effective loss control starts with taking inventory. It’s
critical to know what you own, where it’s located, and the
safeguards, if any, that you have in place. Create a fine arts
inventory that includes:
• A description of each item including the type of object,
title, artist, date/period, measurements, display or
storage location, inscriptions, condition and other
pertinent markings
• Photograph(s)
• Receipt date, donor and an appraisal for items acquired
as bequests
• Date of purchase, proof of purchase (receipt) and an
appraisal for purchased items

Step 2: Take Precautions

While many museums, art galleries or private
collections typically have state-of-the-art
security and fire protection systems, many
educational institutions may have works of art
displayed that are just as valuable but don’t have
the same safeguards.
Follow these simple actions to help avoid
common causes of damage.
• Safeguard paintings, tapestries and similar
works of art:
»»Avoid hanging where the piece could be
damaged by chairs or traffic
»»Avoid locating near a fireplace or area where
smoke could cause damage
»»Monitor moisture levels to ensure items
will not be damaged from too much or too
little humidity
»»Avoid hanging where sunlight or other
strong light sources will strike the item
• Secure statues, porcelains and other
breakable valuables:
»» Place away from traffic areas or in protective
cases to avoid breakage
»»Keep in a dry place
»»Handle carefully to prevent damage
»»Keep out of the reach of children
»» Increase protective measures if located in an
area with a history of earthquakes.

Step 3: Prevent Theft

The FBI estimates that as much as $6 billion
of art and cultural property is lost to criminal
activity each year. While high profile thefts are
generally the work of sophisticated art rings,
others are the work of opportunistic thieves or
can relate to mischievous student activity. These
techniques may help protect your property from theft. Some techniques also make it easier to
trace stolen items:
• Place the artwork close to where a guard
is located
• Install adequate door and window locks
• Ensure that you have adequate interior and
exterior lighting
• Install an alarm that links to a central station
• Install small magnetic anti-theft devices
(pieces of metal glued or hidden inside
valuables that trigger readers located at the
building exit points)
• Install a closed circuit TV camera to
record activities
»» If an item is damaged or stolen, this
recorded footage can be integral in
identifying suspects. Digital systems
generally offer better resolution with little
image deterioration. In addition, they are
preferred because they can store a large
amount of data in a very compact form for
an extended period of time
• Affix microdots (that are one-third the size of
a pencil eraser) using adhesive that’s safe for
virtually all artifacts and other rare objects.
Microdots differ from other devices because
they have a “smart” component that can be
encoded with tracking and inventory data
If Loss Occurs
If art work is stolen or damaged, prompt
reporting to the local authorities can be vital to
the recovery process.
Make note of who discovered the item missing
or damaged, and when. In addition, you can
aid the local authorities in their investigation
by providing:
• A description including the type of object,
title, artist, date or period, measurements,
condition, inscriptions and other markings • Photograph(s)
• Date of purchase or donation, a receipt and an
appraisal of the piece

Step 4: Prevent Fire

While less common than theft; fire, smoke or
water can cause serious damage. Evaluate the
condition of the building in which your work of
art is located. If you aren’t the sole tenant, it’s
also important to know what other activities are
being conducted in the building.
Answering these questions may help you
prevent loss from fire:
• Is the building’s interior structure, including
equipment, in good condition?
»» Is there a preventative maintenance
program to look at HVAC systems,
plumbing, roof and structural components?
»»Are the building components installed to
present building codes?
• Is the electrical system adequate and up
to date?
»»When did a qualified electrician check the
electrical and breaker systems?
»»Does the electrician conduct a thermal
image inspection of the electrical system on
a regular basis?
»»Has the electrical system been upgraded
to accommodate new equipment and
increased use?
• Are heating and air conditioning systems
located in a safe place and properly
• Are all combustibles and flammables stored
properly? Any minimum amount kept on hand
should be in a UL-listed cabinet.
• Is all refuse removed daily or more often
if necessary?
• Is there a “no smoking policy” that
is enforced?
• Are electrical extension cords, tools and
appliances to code?
• Are fire protection devices, such as
extinguishers and sprinklers, properly
designed, installed, maintained and tested
according to mandatory requirements?
• Are smoke alarms in use, maintained and
tested regularly?
• Are your employees trained to respond
quickly and correctly to smoke or fire?
• Are valuable assets segregated (preferably
in separate facilities) so that a fire or flood
doesn’t decimate all your major assets?
• Are paintings and tapestry protected from
water damage by glass enclosures?

Step 5: Insure Your Valuables

Whether you own one work of art or a collection,
protect your investment.

For more information

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