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We conducted an audit of collections stewardship at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to assess whether (1) physical security is adequate to safeguard the collections, (2) inventory controls are in place and working adequately, and (3) controls over the preservation of collections are adequate.
We found that Cooper-Hewitt’s controls over inventory, physical security, and preservation were generally adequate. We also identified some opportunities to strengthen the management of inventory and security. Specifically, the Museum needs to develop a more detailed plan to ensure records are updated and needs to ensure proper segregation of duties within its inventory system. We also found that the Office of Protection Services (OPS) needs to provide more oversight of operations at the Newark facility.
We also found that Cooper-Hewitt has demonstrated good inventory procedures, but did not ensure its electronic collections records stored in the collections information system, The Museum System (TMS), were updated. If museum personnel find anomalies during the collections inventory, such as objects on the shelves without corresponding collections records, or records without corresponding objects, they need to research and resolve the anomalies in their records so that the records accurately reflect the status of the objects. Although the Museum had been inventorying its collections, we observed the staff had not been resolving differences found between records and objects.
Although overall physical security is adequate to safeguard the collections, some aspects of security need strengthening. Our tests of security devices found that they were generally adequate. We also observed that Cooper- Hewitt is upgrading security as part of its redesign of the existing buildings in New York. Further, OPS provided input and oversight of the security plans for the Mansion and Miller-Fox townhouses. However, at the Newark facility, access control to the combined collections storage area and OPS oversight of Newark operations needs strengthening. In addition, security reporting could be improved. Finally, Cooper-Hewitt needs to further segregate the duties of the collections database administrator.
We concluded that Cooper-Hewitt controls over preservation of its collections were adequate. It has conducted surveys on the condition of the collections, obtained new shelving and storage for the collections, created a packing system, closely monitored environmental conditions, and developed a detailed disaster plan.
We made five recommendations to ensure that Cooper-Hewitt: (1) reconciles the TMS, accession, and object records; (2) identifies incomplete records in TMS and update them; (3) establishes internal controls within the combined storage area to ensure individuals only have access to collections that are a part of their official duties; (4) OPS Operations Division obtains and reviews the security reports and oversees management of keys at the Newark facility; and (5) staff members with unrestricted access to collections not have the ability to delete TMS records.
Management generally concurred with our findings and recommendations and has planned corrective actions to resolve the recommendations.