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USS Midway

Photo Courtesy of Milestone Systems

Eyes on the USS Midway Museum

Anchored in the San Diego Bay, the massive USS Midway serves as a museum to recent U.S. history.

The warship boasts a full-length flight deck, and at a total length of 1,001 feet it is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall. One of three types of aircraft carriers, the Midway is also the namesake for its ship class—which was created to host a large number of aircraft and feature deck armor.

Construction of the ship formally began in 1943, and the USS Midway entered active service in September 1945, days after Japan’s surrender during World War II.

Since then, the warship has participated in various military maneuvers, including during the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and other smaller incidents. It eventually transitioned into a hub of learning in 1990s.

Joe Gursky, director of information technology for the USS Midway Museum, says that he distinctly remembers the presence of the Gulf War while he was growing up, and he continues to be struck by the ship’s role during those operations.

Like many of the museum’s approximately 365 employees and 800 annual volunteers, he senses the connection to history that the warship offers, and it reminds him of his role in preserving the legacy of the U.S. Navy, honoring those who served on the warship, and helping others learn.

Prior to 2020, the museum welcomed an estimated 1.5 million guests every year, with the goal of not only delivering a sense of authenticity but of bringing history alive for its military and civilian guests.

“It’s not about being a warship,” Gursky says. “It’s just about showing people that maybe a lot of the things and the freedoms that we have in the world, there was a cost to that, and we want to try to tell those stories about the people who paid that price or contributed to that cost.”

The USS Midway Museum has had to cap both its employee and visitor attendance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, altering protocols to comply with state and local public health guidelines. At the time of Gursky’s interview with Security Management, the museum was operating at 20 to 30 percent employee capacity.

To adhere to social distancing guidelines, the museum limits how many people can tour parts of the museum at any given time, and docents can no longer lead groups below deck. However, some unique features—such as glass panels and dividers within the ship and virtual tours running on television screens—can still show off areas below deck that would otherwise be inaccessible given the tight quarters.

But tours were not the only aspect of the museum’s operations that had to adapt in 2020. The museum’s security surveillance system was previously dedicated to monitoring crowds for any incidents that might occur. Once the facility implemented social distancing measures, the museum’s newer surveillance management platform was able to assist with watching for people beginning to cluster or crowd.

The need for six feet of space was not what initiated a surveillance platform switch, however; it was instead a need for virtual storage space. According to Gursky, the museum wanted a cloud-based storage solution for its surveillance feeds.

Although Gursky was also searching for an affordable long-term solution with a detailed level of organization, when he came across Milestone products, it was not their storage offerings that hooked him. Instead, it was that the XProtect video management platform was billed as an open system, able to integrate thousands of different devices into one.

While there was nothing inherently flawed with the previous system, Gursky had grown increasingly frustrated with it and its manufacturer’s closed attitude, which would prevent the museum from incorporating certain new cameras, devices, or solutions. For a museum that was originally designed for life at sea, the same kind of camera is unlikely to work in every corner. “It got to the point where I wanted more flexibility,” Gursky says.

After testing the XProtect system for a week, Gursky was convinced and in turn convinced museum leadership to make the switch. “Milestone took it to a level that was innovative so I could try [new] things,” Gursky says.

More than 100 cameras were migrated onto the new platform and video files were moved over in separate batches to create a library of archives. Both platforms ran simultaneously until the transition was completed.

Because the Midway is open to the public, older surveillance files are retained out of general liability concerns. These files may need to be recalled with relative ease if someone sues the museum, which makes an organized archive system essential.

The platform’s ability to organize not only the files themselves, but also individualize user access to old files and live feeds has become an asset for Gursky. The system categorizes users into groups, and a system administrator then determines which, if any, cameras users from a certain group can pull up.

For example, when the museum’s armored car service is scheduled to pick up cash, Gursky can arrange for museum security and accounting staff to have access to the cameras and layout so they can monitor when the car arrives and any suspicious activity in the area. Having both users and individual cameras highly organized also allows the museum to incorporate contractors into the system, giving third parties with their own staff or other resources at the museum limited access to the relevant surveillance feed.

Another benefit of the XProtect system for the museum has been notifications to staff smart devices. In at least one instance, the museum’s alarm system was not correctly disarmed, and when someone arrived, the security director received an alert and was able to pull up the camera feed on a tablet.

“That’s really valuable,” Gursky says, because it enabled security to prevent an employee from getting arrested when they were only intending to start the workday.

Gursky is already looking beyond what the platform currently offers and says he hopes to use the data generated by XProtect to create tailored alerts and develop metrics for additional security features. Although the cameras may detect movement, the motion might not reach a threshold to trigger an alert. Data from the platform can be used to help IT and security departments determine if this or other instances indicate a security gap.

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