Museum Security

In this section, you will find resources for the security of museum buildings, grounds, collections, staff, and visitors.

Five Elements of Basic Security:

  • Functioning pick-resistant locks and an alarm system
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Smoke detectors
  • Fire extinguishers
  • A prepared disaster plan. Check out the Disaster Preparation section for more information. 

Below is a video to introduce you to the basics of Museum Security:

Getting Started

Check out the website for the Museum Association Security Committee (the security committee for the American Alliance of Museums), which provides resources about all types of security concerns. The page on Protecting Historic Sites and Important Resources might be good places to start exploring this website.

Another place to start is: “Tech Talk: Museum Security” by the Minnesota Historical Society. This provides strategies to take when assessing risks faced by a museum and provides advice about many different aspects of increasing the security of a museum (building and grounds program, lock and key program, etc.).

The Museum, Library, and Cultural Properties Council of ASIS International Suggested Practices for Museum Security (revised in 2006) sets forth recommendations for protecting museum collections, buildings, and personnel. It is a good resource for any size museum, outlining which security measures are the bare necessities, and which museums should strive for.

Here is a short 2017 article from Discovered Society that discusses an academic study into challenges faced in museum security. If you’re interested in the full academic article, check it out here.

Security of Museum Buildings

How secure are your keys? Check out this 2013 practical guide, “Security in Museums and Galleries: Key Security,” from the Arts Council of England.

Security of Grounds

Have you heard of “security design”? This 2011 article about using landscape to improve security could be helpful in thinking creatively about using your grounds to make an environment more secure. By being aware of everything from the placement of fences and plants to the topography and lighting around your museum, you can work to improve the security of your grounds and your building, and by extension, your staff/visitors and even your collections.

Security of Collections

Are your security cameras angled such that items in your exhibits/collections are monitored? Does the door to your collections storage have a good quality lock? These are some questions raised in document below, which provides recommendations for protection of your collections and general advice for museum security.

The National Park Service Museum Handbook has a chapter on “Museum Collections Security and Fire Protection” that provides a detailed overview of fire protection, physical security, electronic security systems, and reporting stolen objects.

Security of Staff & Visitors

See our page about Human-Made Disaster Prep to view information relating to active shooters and bomb threats.

Lost Child Policy

Does your museum have a policy for helping lost children? You should! The National Museum of Wales has some information here about how they deal with parents searching for lost children and lost children searching for parents.

Medical Emergencies

Your museum should have a first aid kit for minor injuries. Don’t have one? Check out this article about what to include.

If someone has a life-threatening medical emergency call 9-1-1 and alert a supervisor.


Do you have a workplace domestic and sexual violence/stalking policy? The website for Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence provides a Model Workplace Policy on Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking.

Unfortunately, stalking in the workplace can be a real danger. Check out the Stalking Risk Profile website for more information about how stalking can occur at work.

Remember: Use your best judgment when directing people to your employees and volunteers. If someone enters the museum asking for information about when an employee or volunteer is on shift be cognizant of the safety and privacy of your staff member. While most people are likely enthusiastic to see their friend or favorite museum professional, it’s important to remember that not everyone has good intentions.

Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence has a helpful Questionnaire: Initial Evaluation of Workplace Program, that could be a good place to start if you’re wondering what more you can do to address these issues.