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Protecting Priceless Papal, Presidential, Celebrity Artifacts
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Article


Funeral Museum
The National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Tx. uses video analytics software and IQinVision HD megapixel cameras to keep historic treasures safe from five-finger discounts.
February 12, 2013 | by D. Craig MacCormack

Most people have never even heard of the National Museum of Funeral History, but if you’re a scholar of presidential or papal history, a trip to Houston should be on your to-do list so you can see some of the rarest artifacts in the world, including a scaled replica of the train car that held Abraham Lincoln’s casket, Pope John Paul II’s Popemobile and more.

And, as is the case with most rare and one-of-a-kind items, thieves looking to turn the rare piece into big bucks occasionally mix in with the museum’s visitors or wait until the building is closed for the day and attempt to make their move. That’s a bad idea, if you ask the folks from Acuity-vct in Cleveland. They’ve installed their video analytics software and an array of IQinVision HD megapixel cameras throughout the museum over the past five years to keep these historic treasures safe from five-finger discounts.

“If you don’t go to the Vatican in Rome, you’re not going to see a lot of the things you see (at the museum),” says Dan Lazuta, director of sales and marketing at Acuity-vct.

High-Priced History
The National Museum of Funeral History houses the country’s largest collection of funeral service artifacts and features renowned exhibits on one of man’s oldest cultural customs. It also features the mourning rituals of ancient civilizations, authentic items used in the funerals of U.S. presidents and popes, and the rich heritage of the industry which cares for the dead.

Lazuta and Acuity-vct got involved with the museum in 2008, after museum CEO and vice chairman Bob Boetticher knew his then-new papal exhibit was going to dramatically increase museum attendance and he would now have numerous priceless artifacts to safeguard.

Boetticher met Lazuta as he and a colleague were at the American Association of Museums tradeshow early in 2008. The Acuity-vct system uses pixel-changing, adapted learning technology, which becomes even more impressive when combined with an HD MP camera.

Today, the museum has a mix of 52 IQinVision cameras and some of the legacy cameras from the early installs. When a legacy camera fails, it is replaced by an IQeye camera. Also, four to five additional IQeye cameras are on order as the museum continues to expand the areas under surveillance. Most cameras are deployed inside the museum, but a small number do provide surveillance around the building and for the parking lot.

Most of the museum’s exhibits are protected by Acuity-vct’s advanced motion detection analytics. When a protection zone drawn around an item or exhibit is broken, an alarm immediately sounds as does an audio warning. The museum guard is able to get to the area affected within 30 seconds. 

Watch Boetticher demonstrate the system below:


Eyes and Ears All Over
The museum has a guard on a raised platform as visitors are walking through the gift shop to review surveillance images from the IQeye cameras at all times. Boetticher can access the system if he wants from his main office about 30 miles from the museum.

Surveillance in the museum’s parking lot has proved important in thwarting air conditioner copper theft and helping the police investigate car break-ins. The museum is co-located with the Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Services, so there is a large amount of vehicular traffic. That’s why the museum recently invested in IQinVision 5 MP Sentinel cameras to provide very high resolution images for an Acuity-vct license plate recognition software system.

“Every time they add a new exhibit, we add new protection for them,” says Lazuta, noting the most recent addition is a Marilyn Monroe exhibit. The software combines with the cameras to make it easier than ever to monitor the 30,500-square-foot space with relative ease.

“Sometimes you can’t be looking at 200 cameras at a time and process it all, so that’s why the audible alarm is a nice addition and a nice piece to include,” says Lazuta. “When we first started working with them, they stressed the value of the artifacts that are on display. A lot of museum directors don’t know a product like this exists and that they can buy it for their museums. From the time since we installed the first HD camera, the price point has come down and they can get the after-the-fact forensics that can help them if something happens.”

 

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About the author

Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering. He joined Commercial Integrator in January 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigMacCormack.
View all posts by D. Craig MacCormack
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