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Recently, I attended the Smithsonian's National Conference on Cultural Property Protection.

The Smithsonian dedicates an entire department around the theme and is considered one of the best at implementing effective CPP strategies.

For those not in the museum space, Cultural property protection (sometimes called cultural property security) is a system of protection guidelines that security departments leverage to safeguard historical sites, museums, and libraries and the historical artifacts they house.

Basically, CPP is security for museums, galleries, and similar venues.

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Throughout the conference, I heard from several engaging and informative speakers who were experts in their fields. Here are my key takeaways from the conference:

  1. Guests only see a fraction of what our favorite museums, galleries, and historical sites do to protect their collections. The hard-working professionals who work seamlessly behind the scenes need more credit for their expertise.
  2. Cultural property protection and the customer experience (CX) are rarely discussed together, but there IS a way for the two themes to coexist. Most interactions are protection-based, not CX-based.

Customer-Focused Cultural Property Protection

Today's cultural property protection leaders focus on guarding collections, managing risk, and responding to crises, but very little time is devoted to how those strategies affect the customer experience.

In reality, you can nurture both themes simultaneously without sacrificing one for the other.

Organizations developing a CPP department often supplement their core team with professional protection contractors. This is where we see the biggest opportunity to transform the CPP standard.

For organizations that contract protection professionals, you must establish guidelines that allow them to work in tandem with internal staff before your contractors arrive on site. The processes you put in place now will help align contractors with the organization— therefore, defining a standard of best practices that are so good, guests can't effectively say who works for whom.


CPP as (A Part of) Your Business Strategy

It's a hill we'll die on: Customer Experience IS a Business Strategy. In fact, we should print this motto on t-shirts and sell them, we say it so often. Well-defined processes, inspirational leaders, and competent employees drive bottom lines, including your cultural property protection processes and staff.

Of course, safeguarding your property (your people, possessions, building) is paramount, but it shouldn't sacrifice how your guests move through your exhibits and experience your collections. Leave your closed-circuit tv cameras, control rooms, and alarms behind the scenes where they can successfully defend undisturbed. Then, consider what your remaining CPP strategies look like to a customer. For example, what do protective screens and cases, ropes, and signs—the forward-facing strategies—say to your guests and families? Do they align with your signage and other guest touchpoints established in other departments? How can your staff restructure these elements to work quietly in the background, like stage managers during your favorite live show?

While these strategies have obvious connections for organizations like the Smithsonian or the Lourve, we can apply these insights to businesses and organizations of all types. Think about the methods and processes you have in place within your organization to protect your property.


How do they read to the customer? If you feel they could send a better message, let us help you communicate more intentionally with your guests. It's what we do.


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Mike Donnelly is a recognized expert, keynote speaker, facilitator and consultant in customer service and leadership development. Leveraging 20+ years of experience from The Walt Disney Company, he and his team help destination location clients and clients in various customer-facing industries create customer loyalty to achieve positive business results. Learn more at


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