Museum and Archive Storage: An Introduction To Data Loggers, Temperature, and Humidity

Museum and archive storage is important. How important? Well, the minds behind the underrated Ocean's 12 thought it so important they included this scene at the end of their movie:

(Yes, that was my best attempt to include a clip from one of my favorite movie series.)

At Dickson, we don't make lasers to safeguard rare artifacts against the greatest thieves in the world. Instead, we make data loggers and chart recorders that measure and record temperature, humidity, and water pressure. Not nearly as sexy or cool, but possibly more important.

Works on Paper

While I thought long and hard about inserting a video from National Treasure staring Nicholas Cage for this section, I didn't (The ending of National Treasure 2 forced my hand). In that movie, Nicholas Cage tries, and succeeds in stealing the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is currently housed in a bullet proof case, which is both temperature controlled and filled with argon gas to guard against decomposition.

Let's dwell on that last sentence a bit. Over time, paper decomposes. Next time you are in your someones basement or attic, take a look and see if you can find any old paperback books lying around. The pages are yellow, right? This happens to paper over time, specifically if it is stored in an unstable environment.

While the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Magna Carta, and the Mona Lisa are extreme cases of document preservation, there are countless museums and archives around the world housing documents that they want to preserve for longer than 20 years.

They key to achieving this is temperature and humidity control. Those two things, above all else, will help shape a rare documents life in a museum or archive. The Library of Congress offers this advice [LINK]:

Good storage significantly prolongs the preservation of paper materials and includes:

  • A cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with his risk of leaks and environmental extremes).

And that is where data loggers come in. Data loggers, temperature sensors, and temperature alarms help museums and archives across the world store their documents safely. Here are a few examples:

  1. When an traveling art exhibition moves from one museum to the next, the owners of that art want to be sure that it is kept out of environmental extremes. Data loggers allow the hosting museums to prove to the owners that their works of art were kept at safe temperatures and humidity.
  2. In case of emergency, data loggers are your cheapest insurance policy. When a heater or air conditioning unit fails, wireless data loggers can send you text, email, and phone call alerts as soon the environment your documents are in is above a certain threshold.

Be on the lookout for more information from us on museum and archival storage!