Protecting Picassos and people

It is well-known that, for the public, security is an unknown and restricted topic. However, as part of the major aim of the Picasso Museum to get close to you, of integrating an online community, we would like to give you the chance of taking a look at everything that is not accessible to the public in general, and therefore to show you how we combine the protection of both art and people in the museum.

A different conception: in search of proximity. Firstly, it should be said that in recent years a change has taken place in terms of the behaviour of the figure of the security guard, in the sense that he or she doesn’t have the exclusive role of carrying out surveillance, but also that of attending the various needs of the public, be it for information or to receive help.

Adapting ourselves to the latest technology: watching from the heart of the museum. Thanks to the commitment of the director and management around 5 months ago, we started up the new Coordination Centre (CECOR), both for security as well as for emergencies. It currently represents one of the most modern centres from among the cultural centres of the country, thanks to the incorporation of the latest technologies of the market. A migration has been undertaken of all the old systems to an IP system (Internet Protocol), and as such everything is now digitalised.


The central nucleus of the CECOR. The control room of cameras and screens.

With this new room, the centre controls better the prevention and reaction: faced with any incident we manage to have access with the greatest proximity. We have also included the administrative and management aspects in the same space. We all form part of security, we watch over the collection and visitors, and for this reason, all the spaces are interconnected. To sum up, we manage the patrimonial security, as the main element, but also everything that affects what the museum provides in all the activities that are generated.

In situations such as the open doors days, or the first Sundays of each month, or the Sunday afternoons in which the municipal museums are free of charge, different operatives are put into practice. For example, it is something different to take into account the fact that if the museum is free of charge for the whole day, the affluence is very high, and this can hinder the management and protection of the works. There are Sundays on which we receive more than 7,000 people, and for this we establish a number of channels, while respecting the rules for the maximum number of visitors, so that the visitors can enjoy the art and move between the exhibition rooms in a comfortable way.

To give an example, when we are visited by personalities from the world of art, or from the political world, mechanisms are established with the protection staff of the personality in question, and contact is made with the police. We prepare the whole process and inform about the ways planned following the standard protocols, and from the museum, we place ourselves at their disposal for the functioning and above all, to follow the visit.


Jesús Rico, director of the department of security of the Picasso Museum of Barcelona.

The day-to-day work of the Picasso Museum. As happens in many museums, an important part of the work takes place first thing in the morning. Half an hour before the doors open there are people waiting outside, which means that the movement and presence of visitors in the rooms is constant. Our mission, helped by the people in charge of attending the public, consists of channelling without directing, so that the visitor can access and walk around freely, avoiding in this way offering a rigid and closed circuit. Currently, any visitor can go back on their steps and choose any way of going into the world of Picasso.

At eight o’clock in the evening the museum closes its doors to the public and it is in this moment that a security operation begins in which all the connections are guaranteed: all the systems start functioning at night following a rigorous control.

Transfer and movement of works. With regard to any movement of the art works, the Picasso Museum, unlike other museums, doesn’t have a loading bay, and the entry and exit of paintings has to be done in the street. It is necessary at all times to ensure that the loans, either the returning of art works or a request from another museum, arrive with maximum guarantees, and that the move is checked to be secure. My work as the person in charge of security goes beyond the doors of the museum: we have to manage the transport and certify that the companies and staff that carry out the move comply with all the rules, ensuring the security both of the loading and unloading of the works. It is therefore essential to establish channels of communication and coordinate the process with the people in charge of other museums and to jointly assess the needs and if necessary request specific protection. When referring to changes of location of works within the museum itself, as happened with the new disposition of the Sala de Las Meninas, by means of the person in charge of the department of conservation, prevention and restoration, the reinforcement with security staff is also offered.

Management and future challenges. One of the actions that has been successfully put into practice, of short term effectiveness, has consisted of reducing (and almost eliminating) the historic queues in carrer de Montcada, (the street of the Museum), by means of an improved management of the ticket offices and of the group visits and also by the setting in motion of online ticket sales.

Ongoing training and connectivity are essential. The museum, by means of contacts with other directors of security, has knowledge of the systems used by other art centres of the country. It is necessary to learn constantly, and for this reason, once a year, 25 directors of security from all over the country meet up to share experiences. It is a new group, with the aim of generating a space of reflection and debate about the needs and obligations with regard to the security of our heritage and the users. All the participants contribute and learn about the day-to-day work of the others, proposing new challenges so as to face the problems which emerge.

Jesús Rico

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