Richard Witkowski 

Night Guard Supervisor, Cleveland Museum of Art

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Photo by Tim Harrison

It's 8 a.m. on a Friday, and if we didn't know any better, we'd think Richard Witkowski was just starting his shift.

His blue sport coat looks like it's just been pressed, and his tie is wrapped snugly around his neck. On his lapel, he has a pin featuring a picture of one of the spotted yellow pumpkins from the Yayoi Kusama exhibit.

Witkowski, of course, has actually just finished work. From midnight to 8 a.m., he helps guard the millions of dollars of art owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

So what happens on a typical night at the museum?

"Being security, you have to be careful about what information we hand out," he says. "My official description of what we do is that my team and I are responsible for monitoring and reporting on environmental and security systems of the building and its contents and our employees. We have our mechanical issues. It's a 100-year-old building.  As far as attempted break-ins, I can't talk about that."

Witkowski started working at the museum two years ago as a guard and worked his way up the ladder. 

"Coffee is my new best friend," he says with a laugh. "I never drank coffee before this. I've always worked second or third shift, so the schedule just agrees with me. A big part of it is keeping the same sleep schedule. I stay awake all night. I am just a night person."

When he's not working at the museum, "I'm the creative type," he says. "I do 3-D art and stuff you'd see in video games or Pixar movies. I design things on my tablet."

He says he appreciates the fact that he essentially gets a private showing of the museum's art collection each night he goes to work. "I like having the place without any public," he says. "It's very intimate to walk through the building in that context. My friends and family like to joke that it's like [the movie] Night at the Museum. I've heard that joke over and over. It's not like that. Nothing comes to life. There are a few ghost stories floating around here, but I haven't seen anything that makes me nervous."

He says he particularly loves walking through the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. "It's something I was looking forward to since I started working here," he says. "I do consider it a privilege to be able to experience it at my own pace when most of the public has to go through on a scheduled pace. Our walk through is unrestrained."

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