For precious artifacts and cherished documents, time is the enemy.
Now, technology being developed by RIT's Image Permanence Institute
may dramatically slow down the clock.
As part of a $1.1 million project, IPI invited libraries, archives
and museums from across the United States to participate in a
two-year study of a system for preservation-environment assessment.
The aim is to evaluate the technology and create a database of
environmental requirements for specific types of museum objects.
IPI provided hardware, software and training to about 180 test
sites in 43 states. Participating institutions include Rochester's
George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film,
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NASA's Johnson Space
Center in Houston and the National Museum of American History
in Washington, D.C.
Each site has received two preservation environment monitors that
look very much like home thermostat units. A software application
called Climate Notebook accompanies the monitors, providing improved
interpretation and reporting capabilities for temperature and humidity
data collected from those units. Analysis of the information allows
staff members at the test locations to pinpoint environmental conditions
for optimal preservation.
|The priceless collections at Rochester's George Eastman
House, such as this historic photo, are getting some added
protection from an environmental monitoring system developed
"This brings to fruition 20 years of laboratory research at RIT
and elsewhere," says James Reilly, IPI director. "The response
from museums has been overwhelming. They're telling us, We need
this technology now.'"
Grant Romer, director of conservation at the George Eastman House,
couldn't agree more. "It's extraordinarily important for our collection
of items," Romer explains. "What has happened in the past is that
people tried to monitor conditions in the vault. It's a difficult
process and provided little understanding of the long-term impact
on the collection. This device, and the service that it provides,
quantifies the information and gives a clearer picture."
To help finance the project, IPI received $735,000 in grants
from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute
for Museum and Library Services and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
RIT provided the remainder in matching funds.
The Image Permanence Institute, a department of the College of
Imaging Arts and Sciences, was founded in 1985 as a nonprofit