Guildford Museum: Environmental Monitoring
Title of Project
June 2013 - June 2014
What were the Project aims?
Aim - To better understand environmental fluctuations in key Guildford Heritage Service collections storage and display areas.
To achieve this, we have borrowed five Hanwell dataloggers (as well as a laptop to download the data using the Hanwell programme) from the MDO resource bank at Brighton. These have been placed in the five most important areas for collections, for example a gallery at Guildford House and our main, off-site collections store.
To date, Guildford Heritage Service has been operating an environmental monitoring system based on regular readings from spot check monitors to include RH, temperature, UV and lux. Although we will continue this process in order to spot immediate, dramatic changes in the environment, it does not allow us to observe changes to the environment (RH and temperature only) throughout the day when staff are not available. Additionally, it allows us to more accurately record the environment in spaces such as the off-site store which are only visited once per week (on average).
This work will help us to understand the environment on each site and will inform our care and conservation plan updates for Accreditation in early 2014.
What types of Collections were involved?
Mixed – Archaeology, local history, decorative and fine art, maps and prints, and needlework.
In addition to loaned objects most commonly on display at Guildford House with some in the temporary displays at the Museum.
What was the Impact of the Project?
The impact of the project has been minimal as environmental monitoring is a well-established part of our annual collections care plan. The only additional work required has been to take the Brighton laptop to the location of each datalogger in order to download the data then transfer it to our system.
Although downloading data takes place over several sessions (as staff must visit three different sites, one of which is on the outskirts of Guildford), we estimate that this work takes up to 1 day in total every two months. As we have requested the equipment loan for 1 year, by the end of the year we will have spent up to 6 days in total. However, as this is part of our normal process for monitoring, the amount of time spent is negligible.
In fact, the loggers have saved us time to date as we have not needed to take so many spot readings. In the long term, should we be able to source our own dataloggers, these will save a great deal of time and will allow us to make spot checks on a much less frequent basis (though we intend to build in regular spot checks regardless in order to be aware of sudden changes requiring management).
A positive impact of this work has been to highlight the work of the collections team in monitoring the environment across the service, particularly useful as we are a new team – both of us started in mid 2013. By chance, we were able to use gathered data to support the paperwork for a temporary exhibition loan after reporting requirements from the lender changed at the last moment.
Make the most of this resource! It’s free, and borrowing the equipment was simple to do. Emily also came out to our site and carried out a quick inspection of environment and other issues, providing us (very swiftly) with a summary report, which we can now use to inform our collections care and conservation plan along with the data gathered through this project.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to continue collecting this data until the middle of 2014 so that we will have accurate readings for one full year for the first time. Like many museums, we have a small preservation budget so this work will help us to prioritise the purchase of our own environmental monitoring/management equipment over several years.
We have already found a few surprises, and noticed far greater fluctuation in readings than we had previously seen through spot checks alone (which is not surprising in itself). One room in particular shows occasional readings into the 60th percentile for RH (see graph opposite), and high temperatures (though we have noted that UK weather in August this year was rather uncharacteristically balmy!).
Now that we have this data we can begin to apply our resources where they are most needed, as well as discussing heating (and window opening) plans with our building maintenance team. We also intend to use these results to apply for funding to support this work in the future.
Overall Cost of Project