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Protecting museums from every angle

By Amanda Doran
Head of Commercial Combined

April and May are important months for the museum world, with two major events to celebrate the part they play in society.

Museum Week runs from 23rd – 29th April, highlighting the role that culture, art, science and education plays in the development of our societies.  And on 18th May the worldwide community of museums will come together to celebrate International Museum Day, promoting the ways in which museums help with the enrichment of cultures, providing visitors with inspiration, education and enjoyment.

There are around 2,500 museums in the UK, safeguarding and making available all manner of local and national treasures and artefacts. These include large national museums run by central Government, smaller local authority managed museums, independent museums, regimental museums, university museums and other historic properties.

The total number of visits to museums around the UK is estimated at over 100 million a year.

Managing museum risks

When we think of the risks associated with museums and galleries, we often think of daring cat burglars breaking in at night to steal precious works of art. In fact you may be surprised to learn that there are actually more than 50,000 pieces stolen from museums and galleries each year, with many being unplanned ‘crimes of opportunity’.

Sophisticated art theft is often carried out for the purpose of holding precious works for ransom (also known as ‘artnapping’), as was the case when Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ was famously stolen from the Oslo National Gallery in 1994. It was recovered later the same year. It is believed that less than 10% of all art and objects stolen from museums and galleries is ever recovered.

But risk management isn’t just about theft. With visitors coming through the doors each week, museums of all sizes face more everyday risks, just like any other business, and that’s where having a thorough risk management strategy, backed by adequate insurance cover can help.

Risk Management will consider all manner of risks such as:

• Potential injury or liability to members of the public, such as slips and trips
• Damage to the building and its contents
• Risk to any exhibits, fine art or specialist collections
• Fire safety
• Flood risk and escape of water prevention
• Theft and vandalism
• Possible security incidents or terrorist threats
• Business interruption and possible loss of revenue
• Risk from money handling, fraud and dishonesty
• Cyber and data risks
• Social media and reputational damage risks
• Damage to collections in transit
• Road and driver safety relating to any vehicles operated by the museum

Protecting your business from every angle

QBE Business Insurance works with some of the leading institutions in the art world to protect their valuables, precious items and artworks on display, in storage and in transit. The likes of the Getty Museum, Sotheby’s, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Barclays rely on QBE.

On a more local level, we work with museums and galleries, large and small to help them with all aspects of their insurance. Our expertise in this sector means we can look at the business from every angle and provide insurance for even the most challenging risks and situations.

In the UK, we provide business insurance through brokers, so if you’re about to renew, or are considering additional cover, ask your broker about QBE.

For more information on the cover QBE provides in this area, please see:

Fine art & specie insurance  
Commercial Combined insurance