Museum and Archive Storage: Your Monitoring Plan

We've previously provided you wonderful readers with a glimpse into why a museum or archive would monitor the temperature and humidity inside their facility. Let’s say you are a museum coordinator or archivist, and we convinced you to start monitoring your environment. Or, you already do monitor your environment, but don’t think you are using the correct equipment, or are monitoring it correctly. What now?

Before you get all gung-ho and go out and by a data logger, or giant environmental monitoring system, there are some things you need to hash out first: some questions that you need to consider. After you've thought through and answered each of these questions, you will be better prepared to analyze what kind of temperature and humidity monitoring device or system you may need.

1. What is your budget?

Sadly, this is the first question. Figure out how much you have to spend, it will inform your every decision the rest of the way. If you are on a tight budget however, all doors haven’t closed. You still have options!

2. What are you storing, and where are you storing it?

Documents, sculptures, furniture, mummies, dinosaurs? If you are in an archive, you may be storing brittle old documents in a large facility that only you and your coworkers are allowed in. If you an art gallery, you may have nothing in storage, instead everything may be in plain sight of anyone who walks through your door. Also, for all you museums and art galleries, here is something to think about: do you have temporary or visiting exhibits? Many times, these will require additional temperature and RH monitoring.

3. Do you already have a validated, sophisticated, temperature and humidity control system in your facility?

For some, adding temperature and RH monitors will be to have a backup device for your already amazing HVAC control system (we are looking at you, Smithsonian). For others, no control other than a thermostat in the reading room exists. Many of you may be somewhere in the middle. Figure out what your current capabilities are, and then think on how you can assuage those vulnerabilities with further temperature and humidity monitoring.

4. What kind of documentation do you need? What kind of documentation do you want?

Are you required by your governing agency, grantee, city department, or some other auditing body to guard against deterioration? Do you have to validate anything? Museums usually get a lot more leeway in this regard, in respect to other industries that are required to monitor their environment. The second question is more relevant: what kind of documentation do you want? What do you want to know about the temperature and humidity of your environment? Which leads into our next question . . .

5. What kind of analysis would you like to do?

As the concluding question, we feel it wraps things up nicely. What do you want to get out of temperature monitoring? Why do it in the first place? What kind of information do you want to attain, analyze, and then re-attain?

These five questions are crucial to understand before you begin to add data loggers and chart recorders to your online cart. No sure of the answers? Give us a call.  In the next catalog of Dickson Insights, we will tackle some of the answers to these questions, and how those answers can be used to pick the right temperature and RH monitor for you.