Security OfficerServices, information, and security
Security officers account for over half of the Louvre’s 2,000-member staff. They are responsible for greeting the public and ensuring its safety as well as that of the artworks, and the museum buildings and equipment, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Status and Functions
The security officers are employed by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in the professional category of "reception, surveillance, and storage personnel". Prior to 2002, candidates were required to pass French civil service examinations, but all ministries now also offer an external recruitment process without examination for category C personnel. The profession of security officer at the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens goes back 200 years. Today, the role involves a range of complementary specializations calling for particular skills and qualities. Most involve direct contact with the public, but there are also specific technical and administrative functions. Officers in direct contact with the public include: gallery security officers, permanent security officers attached to the various curatorial departments, "district" heads, emergency and mobile teams, luggage check staff, "ushers" (security officers at the museum entrances), and their managers. Technical and administrative posts include staff responsible for the 24-hour surveillance of closed-circuit TV cameras and intruder-detection equipment, technical maintenance staff in charge of low-voltage systems such as computer and fire detection networks, administrative and financial managers, and the director of internal communications.
Covering 70,000 Square Meters of Museum
Security officers working in the galleries are usually assigned to one of the museum’s “districts,” each covering between 300 and 800 square meters and incorporating areas grouped according to criteria such as type of artwork, mode of presentation, level of fragility of the artworks, and the architectural characteristics of the galleries. “Regional” officers are assigned to posts within a particular wing of the museum: Denon (overlooking the Seine), Sully (surrounding the Cour Carré), or Richelieu, along the rue de Rivoli. “Regional" officers acquire detailed knowledge of the collections displayed in their particular sector. “Interregional” officers are assigned to posts throughout the museum, in response to changing daily requirements. "Interregional" officers require wider, more general knowledge of the museum's collections and geography, and are ideally placed to dispatch visitors on the fastest route from the Italian Primitives to Egyptian sarcophagi, or to redirect a group of lost souls looking for Vermeer’s Lacemaker in the Roman antiquities galleries.
Skills and Qualities
Permanent officers working within specific collections acquire detailed knowledge of the works in their care and the technical installations supporting the displays. They are, in a sense, the “living memory” of their respective districts, working in close collaboration with the department’s curators and the technical and maintenance teams. The hidden treasures in the museum’s reserves are the charge of specialized security officers, who facilitate the work of researchers or restorers. Mobile teams operating with state-of-the-art communications equipment can be called on short notice to provide back-up services, surveillance of private areas and technical installations, or extra security for official visits or areas undergoing renovation and maintenance work. Security officers working in the Tuileries gardens lead guided tours of the site, requiring detailed historical knowledge and excellent interpersonal and communications skills.
Enforcing Visitor Regulations
Far from working in isolation, security officers at the Louvre and the Tuileries gardens are part of a highly structured, close-knit team responsible for welcoming the public, ensuring visitor safety, protecting the collections, palace buildings, and grounds, and providing support for the museum’s program of cultural events (temporary exhibitions, concerts, shows, receptions for patrons, and so on). Effective visitor orientation and flow management can help prevent large crowds becoming a potential danger for visitors and artworks alike. The museum’s Visitor Regulations provide guidelines to help officers enforce basic rules (banning smoking and eating in the galleries, and ensuring visitors keep their distance behind safety barriers), explain the thinking behind them, and propose alternative solutions.
Visitor Reception and Safety
Security officers are occasionally responsible for implementing emergency procedures requiring them to operate calmly, methodically, and effectively in situations such as a lost child, an accident, a crowd-control problem, theft or damage of a work, fire alerts, and bomb threats. Visitor safety is an extension of visitor reception. Visitors from countries such as China, Argentina, and Korea, and from all over France must be greeted, protected at all times, and, whenever necessary, provided with urgent medical assistance or helped to leave the building safely. Officers in the galleries are easily identified by their uniforms (designed by Balenciaga for 2004/2005) and badges. Officers are expected to maintain a high standard of personal appearance and show exemplary politeness, helpfulness, and self-reliance and autonomy in the face of the many unforeseen events and situations that are part of the daily life of what is effectively a medium-sized town (the Louvre has 6 million visitors per year).
Training for security officers takes place in several stages. An introductory week covering their statutory rights and obligations with regard to the French Ministry of Culture is followed by training at the Louvre. Here trainees learn about the long history of the site of the museum and its collections, and the museum’s administrative organization. They then begin their specific job training, covering visitor reception, security of the artworks, fire safety, computer software operation, intruder detection systems, closed-circuit TV monitoring, and access control. Trainees gain an overview of the site’s technical installations and “behind the scenes” areas, and spend a month working alongside a professional “tutor” to learn more about the various aspects of their particular post.
Regular professional development is a priority at the Louvre, and more than half of the museum's security officers attend courses in languages, computer skills, first aid, legal aspects of their relationship with the visiting public, identification of suspicious objects, and so on.
Security officers at the Louvre and Tuileries gardens perform a challenging role and enjoy constant variety and new experiences in the course of their work. Working often within constraints, they are called upon every day to ensure the safety and protection of the museum, its heritage, and the millions of visitors it welcomes every year.
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.