Preserving Musical Heritage

Academy of Santa Cecilia uses IP video technology to preserve the past

As the crown jewel of the rich artistic and cultural heritage of Rome, the Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest and most important musical institutions in the world. Its position and fame have steadily grown since it was founded in 1585. Today, it is internationally renowned, both as a venue for symphony orchestra concerts and as the custodian of a heritage of inestimable value, which makes it a landmark for academics and music lovers alike.

Unique and irreplaceable pieces make up this heritage collection consisting of 120,000 volumes. These include 7,000 manuscripts, 3,000 librettos and 850 editions from before the 19th century; concert programs and brochures; 25,000 tapes, disks and videos; more than 20,000 photographs; and 290 instruments, including the priceless Stradivarius violin known as “Il Toscano.”

“Our situation is unique, considering the quality and quantity of the assets we are required to preserve,” said Angelo De Santis, logistics superintendent at the Academy of Santa Cecilia. “The video surveillance system meets our needs because it fulfills all of our requirements. The features we appreciate most include integration with other systems in the building and scalability that is essential for rapid response to new demands that develop.”

Shortly after 2000, when it became necessary to arrange the transfer of these treasures to the Parco della Musica Auditorium—the multifunctional complex designed by Renzo Piano—one of the first problems to be solved was to guarantee their security while at the same time making them accessible to the public in the new Book and Media Library, which opened to the public in 2003.

Among other things, the decision was made to install a video surveillance system, which, based on the specifics of the project, was required to protect the entire premises of the academy, both at the Auditorium della Musica and at the original site in Via Vittoria. Moreover, the system needed to be scalable in order to adjust to new requirements over time. During the critical period of transfer to the auditorium, it had to guarantee the protection of exhibits as they were placed one by one on the shelves of the library, and of equipment in the new offices next to the library. The video surveillance system had to rely on the server farm setup at the auditorium.

The IP Solution

“When the academy awarded e-Jam the project, staff members performed a feasibility study which showed that it would be appropriate, also in terms of the cost/benefit ratio, to implement a system that took advantage of the existing IT infrastructure of the auditorium,” said Gianmarco Acbano, the system integrator who designed and implemented the video surveillance system. “In fact, although the projects dated back to the 1980s, the designers of the structure had already anticipated the possibility of installing IP video cameras by laying Category 6 structured cabling at video camera height.

“We also proposed using PoE protocol, which had not yet been ratified as a standard in 2002 but was already applicable, to supply the video cameras to use the same cable as those used for the data transfer, thereby achieving further savings in the implementation costs of the system.”

In practice, the feasibility study revealed that new-generation technologies could be used without requiring large investments to implement an efficient and effective system that, above all, looked to the future.

This approach succeeded in convincing the client.

“It allowed us to both use the existing arrangement of Ethernet cabling present in the new premises and to access an innovative technology without additional costs,” De Santis said.

“An IP-based solution also guaranteed important advantages: the ability to gradually scale up the system as the new spaces and offices were occupied, and the ability to establish centralized management of video surveillance, even at the remote location connected to the principal site via VPN.”

Once this approach was accepted, e- Jam began to identify the technologies to be used. The company was in favor of Axis network video cameras and the XProtect® Professional software platform from Milestone, chosen for its ability to manage different video camera models from a single server that can also be accessed remotely.

The most appreciated features of the Milestone software include the flexibility it gives the academy in managing the system directly from the recording server. Motion detection can be customized from camera to camera and activated at different times according to area-specific requirements.

All images stream into a single control center located in the auditorium. In compliance with the applicable privacy regulations, they can be accessed only at the request of the judicial authority or can be overwritten with a pre-set frequency.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Security Today.

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