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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Museum: Security,At Last

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Hermitage Museum will beef up protection of its world famous collections with an American-built fire and security system, museum officials announced Friday. U.S.-based Honeywell Inc. will begin installing the $2.5 million system in September to protect what is arguably the world's finest collection of Western paintings, including a celebrated Rembrandt collection and more than 50 major works by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Museum Director Mikhail Piotrovsky said Friday that the new system represented "the ideal solution" for the museum, which has been plagued by thefts and fires for the past several years. In February, three ancient Roman coins worth a total of about $500, were stolen from a display case that lacked an alarm system. Last summer the museum's Russian fabrics collection caught fire after a worker left an electric tea kettle untended: the water boiled away, the kettle burned up, the curtains caught and the fire spread. Two days later, in another part of the museum, the partially installed sprinkler system kicked on by itself, dumping more than 100 tons of water onto the newly restored Hermitage Theater. "We now feel confident those days are past," Piotrovsky said, prompting co-workers to knock on the oak wood table for luck. Honeywell will also donate $500,000 toward the system's installation, while the Hermitage will put up $500,000. The Hermitage hopes to collect the remaining $1.5 million from sponsors. As part of the project, Honeywell will also install a modern ventilation-climate control system. Currently, climate control at the great museum means throwing open upper-story windows in summer.