The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is a one-of-a-kind museum founded to record, preserve and celebrate the spirit of women of the American West, whether they were pioneers, entertainers, ranchers, rodeo champions, artists, writers or businesswomen.

With its dusty-pink brick exterior bearing a trompe l’oeil cowgirl mural, carved limestone panels and a wild rose motif, the 33,000-sq. foot museum adds distinctive flair to the Fort Worth, Texas, cultural district.

Film star Dale Evans, sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, world-renowned artist Georgia O’Keefe and even Nocona Boot Co. founder Enid Justin are just a handful of the hundreds of women honored in the museum’s permanent collection and visiting exhibits.

Choosing the solution

Implementing an integrated security solution to expand card access and safeguard the museum’s priceless legacy of more than 2,000 artifacts and a wealth of information presented several challenges.

The security staff wanted a system that would be easy to use, would provide local and remote control, and could expand to protect additional artifacts or to take advantage of capabilities such as pressure plates. The museum’s staff also wanted to select a contractor capable of meeting its design criteria and installation timetable, as well as one that could work around other contractors during construction, while murals were being painted, and as exhibits were being set up.

The National Cowgirl Museum selected Tour Andover Controls (TAC) of Carrollton, Texas, to implement its security system.

The company’s I/NET system tracks all access in and out of the museum. Proximity card readers with PIN capabilities at 120 access control points control building access for its 300 cardholders.

“The system controls building access for the safety and protection of the collection, visitors and staff,” said Debra McStay, director of operations of the Cowgirl Museum. “The card access system keeps separate the public areas and the staff areas of the museum, such as offices and the collection and gift shop storage rooms. The system allows restricted access within these areas. “

“The main benefit of the card access system is controlling who enters during non-operating hours. Obviously, when the museum is open and operating, the front doors are unlocked but when the museum closes, we can monitor and control building access. This is beneficial for many reasons. If there is any suspicious activity we can monitor who is coming and going and what areas of the building were accessed. It also gives us the ability to track hourly employees and their time schedules, as well as contractors and the number of hours they were on-site. We can also ‘lock-out’ those no longer affiliated with the museum by denying them access through this system," adds Morton.

McStay also praised the security video system. “The cameras are very important, especially since we are a small museum with limited funding and don’t have a large staff,” she said. “They allow one gallery attendant to observe the exhibits by both monitoring the cameras and walking the floor in the exhibit areas.”

According to McStay, the cameras are useful during special events, such as when the museum is rented for corporate functions. Two people are able to watch the people and exhibits at all times, with one monitoring the cameras and one out in the galleries.

The security video system also helps the staff keep an eye on the museum’s many interactive exhibits, especially a life-size bucking bronco. “Even when staff cannot be right there, they can still check to be sure that visitors are using these properly and safely,” said McStay. Recently, the museum added video recording capability to the system, allowing staff to review any incidents that occur.

Integration of the I/NET system with those of other manufacturers allowed the security staff to monitor everything – from doors to exhibits. The system also provided security staff with local and remote monitoring capabilities, as well as the ability to quickly make changes, such as adding or deleting access cards from the system. “The security system is excellent. We have the ability to monitor which doors open and close throughout the day and the ability to lock/unlock specific doors if necessary. This provides excellent security for our facility, our staff and our guests. Overall, the ability to control building access through card keys along with monitoring doors, gives our facility the ability to have excellent security at our control," concludes Morton.

Installing a comprehensive security solution was a very likely consideration of another museum’s recent decision to lend the Cowgirl Museum some of its priceless treasures – something it had never done before. As a result, one corner of the National Cowgirl Museum now pays homage to legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley, showcasing her shotgun, boots and tweed riding habit.