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Museum Thefts: Blame the Journalists

Should journalists censor themselves when they perceive security lapses in museums? An e-mail I received from a staffer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, who did not wish to be identified, took me to task for endangering that museum’s security by my recent report, BMFA Needs Changing of the Guards. He said I should, instead, have filled out a Visitor Suggestion Form.
And now, as reported by Reuters, we have State Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky upbraiding journalists for contributing to a failed theft attempt last Friday at the St. Petersburg museum:
The more people write about how you can make off with everything in the Hermitage, the more you are going to get unhinged people trying to steal things.
This a case of blaming the messenger. Publicizing evident security problems—like the recent Hermitage theft scandal or the obvious guarding deficiencies that I observed the night I visited the BMFA—is not irresponsibly divulging security secrets; it’s exposing glaring lapses, in the hope of spurring needed action to correct them.
My BMFA experience made me think back to a visit I paid to the Louvre some years ago, where I also marveled at the paucity of guards. It wasn’t long after that that I read reports of thefts from that Paris museum.
And I wondered if I shouldn’t have written something before that happened.

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