Bluetooth Data Loggers Streamline Museum Environmental Monitoring
The Idemitsu Museum of Arts was opened in 1966 as an exhibition hall for the Idemitsu Collection and is located on the 9th floor of the Imperial Theater Building, overlooking the Imperial Garden in Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Special exhibitions are held six to seven times a year, with themed exhibitions of selected works from the Idemitsu Collection of Japanese painting and calligraphy, and East Asian ceramics. Other museum attractions include a year-round exhibition of major works by Georges Rouault (1871-1958), the French master of religious paintings famous for the “Passion” series depicting the last days of Jesus Christ. The unique feature of the museum includes the Sherd Room, which displays fragments of pottery collected from kilns in Asia and Egypt.
To ensure these valuable assets are preserved for current and future visitors to view and enjoy, the museum employs great vigilance in sustaining an adequate interior climate that is safe for storing the range of artworks. Temperature and relative humidity (RH) must be closely managed as excessive levels can potentially harm artifacts and cause deterioration. High RH can trigger mold formation and cause certain materials to warp and corrode, while warmer temperatures can result in heat damage.
“The environment inside the museum could be affected by outside temperature and humidity, which change with the seasons,” according to an Idemitsu Museum of Arts representative. “For this reason, it is important for us to monitor the environment continuously in order to keep it constant. The data is very helpful for controlling the air conditioning system in response to subtle environmental changes.”
The museum houses a range of art pieces that are composed of paper – such as paintings and antique documents – making them especially vulnerable to climatic changes. In particular, the museum has several Japanese-style paintings that need to be protected from temperature and humidity extremes. Special care must also be exercised so that the museum’s wood and metal arts are not subjected to high humidity, so as to prevent deterioration and corrosion.
For storing artworks, the museum has a warehouse that is located away from the exhibition facility and must also be maintained at optimal environmental conditions. Challenges arise when art pieces need to be moved between the warehouse and the exhibition facility, as temperature and RH need to be closely controlled during the transit.
In monitoring the museum’s interior climate, the museum traditionally used analog equipment such as a hygrograph. Then, beginning 10 years ago, the museum transitioned to portable data loggers for achieving more accurate measurements and to better manage data files.
However, in deploying data loggers, the museum curators were still faced with challenges related to retrieval of the temperature and RH data.
“With the first data loggers, a wire connection was necessary for setting up and reading out the data, requiring us to open the display cases each time data was retrieved,” according to the representative. “In doing so, the environment inside the cases was subject to change, which is something we wanted to avoid. Also, collecting readings was laborious work and time consuming.”
Additionally, downloading data from a logger placed in the museum’s Japanese tea room exhibit posed a unique inconvenience. Since an alarm would sound if anyone were to cross a particular barrier leading into the room, the alarm needed to be disabled every time data was offloaded.
To allow for more seamless data access and greater efficiency in uploading and managing data, the museum converted to HOBO MX1101 data loggers with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, deploying 20 data loggers throughout the gallery, Japanese tea room and display case, as well as another 15 loggers in the museum’s warehouse.
With BLE, environmental data can be quickly transmitted wirelessly from the data loggers to mobile devices without the need to connect cables, log on to the internet, or install computer software.
The solution has delivered considerable benefits to the museum in terms of convenience and efficiency, greatly reducing the time associated with manual data collection. The compact and lightweight design of the MX1101 has also proved extremely useful for monitoring temperature and RH conditions when artworks are transferred.
Importantly, the MX1101 logger enables museum staff to access data from loggers without having to open display cases, avoiding potential disturbances to the environment inside the cases.
“Setting up and reading out the loggers used to take an hour, but now we can finish this work in 15 minutes,” said the representative.
And, since data can be accessed from up to 100 feet away, museum staff can now upload data from the Japanese tea room without entering the actual space, avoiding the need to shut down the room’s alarm system.