Row after security breach at art gallery
EXCLUSIVE: Gerry Braiden
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9 Oct 2010
One of Scotland’s top attractions is at the centre of a security breach row after staff found tourists wandering around inside while the building was closed to the public.
Early morning cleaners at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, home to one of the most prestigious – and valuable – civic art collections in Europe, found the group wandering through the venue after they walked in through a door that had been left unlocked.
Staff, who were taken aback by the intrusion, insist the elevated entrance, facing the car park and Glasgow University, was supposed to have been locked from the night before and that no-one had been near it in the short time they were in the museum.
They have also said keys for the north entrance were found where they had been left the previous night and that the only explanation is a major security blunder.
However, Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s art galleries, museums and sports facilities, while admitting the breach, has told The Herald the doors could only have been left unlocked for a maximum of two hours.
The agency believes early morning cleaners were to blame and that fail-safes are in place to ensure that no door is left unlocked while the museum is closed to the public. The Herald understands that none of the cleaners has faced disciplinary action over the lapse.
The museum, some of whose treasures are worth several million pounds each, including Rembrandts, Renaissance masterpieces and jewels of French impressionism, had hosted a function until late the previous evening and was on the final day of an acclaimed exhibition by The Glasgow Boys.
Sources say staff apprehended the group, believed to be overseas backpackers, around 8.25am on Sunday, September 26, almost three hours before public opening, and the only door opened that morning was an employees’ entrance.
Bolts on the door the intruders used to gain entrance are said to have been in place but snibs left unlocked.
One member of staff said: “No-one was anywhere near the [public] doors that morning. To all intents and purposes they were locked, but these people must have checked the doors because they opened straight away for them.”
Another source said: “It’s a good job the Salvador Dali is currently on loan in the US or it would be in a student bedsit in Byres Road by now. Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen in a second, as was Munch’s the Scream in Norway. An opportunity certainly presented itself.”
Unions have blamed the private security firm brought in during the ongoing industrial dispute engulfing Glasgow Life for the security lapse but the agency accused unions of “mischief-making”.
Glasgow Life has insisted all locks were in place as fail-safes ensure the museum cannot be secured without them, while doors were checked throughout the night.
A Glasgow Life spokesman said: “Some members of the public gained access to Kelvingrove before the stated opening hours. They were immediately identified and left the premises. There were upwards of 30 staff on-site and at no time was there any threat to the gallery or our collections.” Four years ago, a drunken guest at a high-profile party held in Kelvingrove Galleries sparked a 3am security scare after falling asleep in the toilets, triggering the alarm system when he woke and alerting the police.
In 2002, it emerged a private security firm was being hired to patrol the grounds of the museum at a rate of £600 a night because newly installed floodlights were too bright for the £60,000 CCTV system.
The previous year, thieves tried a commando-style break-in, scaling the walls with ropes, but fled empty-handed after being spotted by a passer-by.