Florida Museum is the Object of Picture-Perfect Security

What if you could travel to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even back in time to the Renaissance period in just 45 minutes? If this sounds vaguely similar to an H.G. Wells novel, you’re partially correct.

A museum is somewhat of a time machine or, better yet, a time capsule of artifacts and artwork that puts us in touch with our past, present and future. Because these historical archives showcase rare and priceless works of art, security is an ever-present issue for museum officials.

Located on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Fla., is the Lowe Art Museum-a 36,000-square-foot, one-story building. Inside this 16- area facility are valuable paintings, sculptures and antiquities from the 17th to 20th centuries. These treasures have an estimated value of $50 million to $60 million.

The museum is open to the general public, and houses a permanent collection comprised of 8,000 pieces of art from various cultures, including Asian, African, Native American and Pre-Columbian artwork. The Renaissance and Baroque Art periods are represented in the facility’s Samuel H. Kress Wing.

In November 1995, Hi Technology Security Systems, Inc. in Miami installed a security system, consisting of eight-zone expansion modules and one 16-channel module to protect the interior perimeter of the Lowe Art Museum.

“We first heard about the job from Douglas Rodriguez, P.E.,” says Mauricio Pelaez, president and CEO of Hi-Tech. Security. Rodriguez is an electrical engineer at Bosek, Gibson and Associates, a firm that already was contracted with the university.

Thus, Pelaez along with the company’s vice president and COO, Fernando Pelaez, submitted a bid to museum officials. The museum eventually contracted the security firm to not only design a new system, but also create one that easily could be expanded. In January 1996, Hi-Tech. Security began the installation. Aesthetics is of critical importance to the security system design. “Museum officials didn’t want any equipment placed on plain walls and corners,” Pelaez recalls. To abide by the clients’ request, installers placed DSC, C&K and (Sentrol) motion detectors near sculptures and paintings to blend in rather than in areas that would make the units obvious.

Installers placed the main keypad in the Rose and Albert H. Friedman Lobby, while six eight-zone expansion modules are positioned throughout the complex.

Pelaez selected DSC’s MaxsysTM supervised 128-hardwire zone system for the museum. All wires are placed in electrical metal tubing (EMT pipe). In addition, multi-zone expanders with 24-hour zones are installed to protect the museum’s education wing, classrooms, offices, galleries and several storage rooms.

The system controls six partitions with common zones, six LCD keypads and one global LCD keypad, with complete perimeter protection. More than 40 motion detectors are utilized to protect the premises, especially at night when personnel have closed the museum for the evening. In addition, 15 audio glassbreak detectors are installed to secure all exterior and interior electrical and mechanical rooms. Partitions are on auto arm at specific times with more than 30 end users granted access to specific partitions.

The museum’s high ceilings proved to be a challenge during the installation phase for Hi Tech. Security. However, installers were able to overcome the problem as were they able to master the long wire pulls.

In late February 1997, Pelaez and his crew completed the museum job. The 180-man-hour installation cost approximately $35,000. Since the system has been in place, museum officials have reported no attempted break-ins or overall problems with the equipment.

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