In 1990 the largest art heist in history was performed resulting in 13 masterpieces of art, from painters like Rembrandt and Manet, missing from the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. Running in circles like chickens without heads, officials were plagued by false leads, empty promises, chases across the globe from China to antique shops in Boston, and failing spirits. 19 years later they have made no arrests and are no closer to retrieving the stolen pieces.
For extremely rare and precious pieces, like Rembrandt’s “Storm on the Sea of Galilee”, which was his only seascape, museums might want to consider embedding GPS tracking devices in the art so that if they ever are stolen they could easily be found again. Instead, officials spent years traveling all over the world following every tip they got, including some very expensive trips to Japan, only to find dead ends or replicated pieces.
But before we think about what could be done after the art is stolen, there are precautions to be taken while still in the museum. First, laser sensor alarms can be placed a certain distance away from paintings that, when crossed, will sound an alarm and notify security that someone has gotten extremely close to the paintings. Other protective measures, such as alarms that automatically shut down the museum if a painting is dismounted, can also be taken.
Another precaution that museums can take is to install hidden cameras. While the Isabella Gardner Museum was smart in setting up surveillance tapes- having them so visible and easily destroyed, renders them almost useless under a serious attack. The surveillance tapes planted in the museum were ripped out by the two thieves along with the paintings. Having smaller, covert surveillance equipment in addition to the more obvious installations can ensure that the thief will be identifiable.
The remains from the pillage can still be seen on the museum. Isabelle Gardner specifically stated in her will that absolutely nothing can be changed about her museum. The savaged corners of some of these masterpieces are still at the scene of the crime. These relics of the theft are the new show on display at the museum now instead of the timeless pieces of art. One must stop and wonder what could have been done to prevent this- what modern day museums could learn from this serious security breach. (Via CNN Archives)