A Mammoth Protection Task

By Mustoe, James L. | Security Management, March 2001 | Go to article overview

A Mammoth Protection Task


Mustoe, James L., Security Management


Oklahoma's new natural history museum protects its six million artifacts, including a mammoth and a 40-foot-long Saurophaganax.

On May 1, 2000, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH), located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, opened to the public. The new $37.5 million museum brings together approximately six million objects that had previously been housed in 10 different campus buildings. The new two-story, 194,000-square-foot space is arranged as a series of major galleries. The Gallery of Ancient Life, for example, holds a 40-foot-long Saurophaganax and a 100-foot-long Apatosaurus found in a Jurassic-age deposit in Oklahoma's panhandle. The Gallery of Natural Wonders immerses visitors in Oklahoma's varied natural landscapes. The Gallery of the People of Oklahoma tells the history of 30,000 years of human habitation in the state. Other major galleries showcase classical Greek, Roman, African, and Asian antiquities, Native American artwork, and a life-sized bronze Imperial Mammoth.

THE MUSEUM ALSO SERVES as a research facility for the University of Oklahoma. More than 35 graduate and doctoral students and other specialists use its facilities to conduct ongoing research.

Physical protection. Security for the museum began to take shape in August 1998, nearly two years before opening day. Previously, no one had coordinated security efforts for the collection. Its daily safety rested in the hands of administrative employees who were responsible for that area's alarms and door locks. As construction began, the university hired a team of consultants to develop the museum's overall physical security plan. Their recommendations resulted in the following security systems.

CCTV. The security consultants decided to place camera jacks in areas they deemed critical, such as inside fire escape stair towers, emergency exits, in hallways in the first and second floor public areas, in freight passages, and at the three primary points of entrance (main lobby, staff entrance, and loading dock). Altogether, there are 71 built-in CCTV camera jacks around the five-story building's back-of-the-house offices, labs, mechanical rooms, and collection storage areas. No CCTV cameras were placed in the parking lots and driveways, but the museum has plans to place cameras on the roof to provide exterior monitoring of the entry roads, parking lots, and developing acreage.

Because the consultants did not know at the time how the exhibit space would be configured, they arranged the CCTV jacks there in a grid pattern. Today, security--in consultation with the exhibits department--determines the artifacts and exhibits likely to generate the most attention and cameras are placed accordingly.

All cameras are one-third-inch color CCD that feed to one of three 16-input multiplexers. Each multiplexer is hooked to two monitors and a VCR in the security room adjacent to the staff entrance. Monitoring is conducted twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Access control. The university wanted a system that would essentially run itself, and the consultants designed one that could operate without a large security force.

Proximity card readers were installed on 29 back-of-the-house doors. These doors also have keyable locks in case the backup generator fails during a power outage. (This concern proved valid recently when power was knocked out and the generator did not start.) The university chose a patented lock system so that key blanks were only available from a few sources. If someone took a key and tried to have it copied, it would he extremely difficult to find a shop capable of replicating the key.

Key distribution is controlled by the curator or administrator with responsibility for the space. Keys are cut only by the university's locksmiths and issued by security.

All 110 employees and 350 volunteers working in the building are issued proximity cards that also function as photo IDs. …

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