Central Standard
3:45 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

The Awkward Business of Surveilling The Nelson Shuttlecocks

James Hymes, one of the guards at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, asks visitors to stay off the Shuttlecocks.
James Hymes, one of the guards at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, asks visitors to stay off the Shuttlecocks.
Credit Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Kansas City residents have been known to, as Michael Cross likes to say, “cuddle,” on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

What many of these lovers may not realize, is that there are always guards monitoring the museum and the lawn, both on foot and via video cameras.

Michael Cross, manager of security facilities and visitor services for the Nelson-Atkins, has been keeping an eye on the grounds for seven years.

“As long as nobody’s interfering with the artwork we try to leave people alone,” Cross says.

However, people often decide that they are going to attempt to climb the iconic Shuttlecocks. If you have ever braved such a venture, you might have heard something like this, “Excuse me, this is Nelson-Atkins security. We ask that you please do not climb on the artwork, thank you.”

You may think this is a recording, but, in fact, it is an actual person in the Nelson-Atkins Security Command Center.

“The Shuttlecocks are absolutely a draw,” says Michael Cross. “We don’t mind light touching or posing with them; it’s when they turn into a jungle gym that we have to step in and ask you not do that.”

In the Command Center, there are eight monitors showing footage from 207 cameras dispersed throughout the museum. The security team watches these monitors 24/7 to keep the art and the patrons safe.

“We want your family to come here and get excited and have fun,” Cross says.

The next time you’re taking wedding photos with the Shuttlecocks, or having a “cuddle” with your partner, don’t forget to give a wave to your unobserved guardians.

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