Awesome Application Awards: Axis Communications’ Artwork Protection Earns Video Surveillance Honors

Axis’ high resolution, IP cameras were integrated with Acuity-vct object protection system to better protect artwork at the Butler Institute of American Art.

The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, was originally constructed in 1919 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. “America’s Museum” has since expanded to include the south wing Beecher Center, which is dedicated to new media and electronic art that implements holography, lasers and the like; additionally, the institute recently acquired and renovated a former First Christian Church into “Butler North,” housing an extensive collection of Americana artifacts.

In all, the Butler Institute of American Art now houses more than 20,000 pieces. Like most museums, it had a significant number of analog cameras installed throughout that were historically used for general surveillance, but sought a more modern solution that would serve two purposes, according to network camera manufacturer Axis Communications. The first was to improve the quality of the existing cameras by replacing many with higher resolution, IP models; second, and driver of this project, was to install more cameras directly above the artwork and integrate the video with the museum’s Acuity-vct object protection system, which alerts guards if invisible barriers are breached.

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The Butler has hundreds of documented video incidents of guests touching or being too close to the artwork, notes Axis, and in each case the guest knows immediately that they are beyond the acceptable viewing area and, in most cases, self corrects the stance. But staff is also alerted and can take appropriate action if required.

Museum staff can monitor each piece of artwork at this command center.

The original project goal was to protect just the permanent collection, and the success there led to both the Beecher Center and Butler North receiving the same treatment. Axis says that Butler Director Dr. Lou Zona first learned of Acuity-vct’s implementation at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in nearby Cleveland and soon approved of the object protection system for the art museum.

Acuity-vct’s installation team performed the entire scope of work for the project, which cost roughly $175,000 for the original phase and an additional $180,000 for the subsequent job. Acuity-vct implemented Dell servers to house the surveillance and object protection software as well as the Axis 210A network cameras; small loudspeakers were placed in the galleries and connected to the cameras for delivering audible announcements at the guest level. Acuity-vct also delivered all the network switch infrastructure, wiring and installation services, says Axis.

The installation tally includes more than 150 Axis 210A cameras with 1.6mm lenses to watch over the permanent art collection, while surveillance in other areas falls upon Axis F44 main units, and M1 144-L, P3364-V and Q1604 network models for more than 200 total cameras, according to the company. Cameras were connected to Netgear switches via Cat-6 cabling run to Butler’s network closets, and a separate video network was created. Axis analog-to-digital encoders were also used to convert some of the existing analog cameras and added to the network, the company says.

Overall, the installation has helped Zona “finally get a restful night’s sleep” and allowed the museum to better protect its collection without adding more human resources now that guards can also be more efficient. Axis says similar solutions have subsequently been implemented in museums such as the Princeton University Art Museum and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Addison Gallery of American Art.

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