Environmental Monitoring

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This content is excerpted from Preventive Conservation: Collection Storage (2019), Elkin and Norris, eds.

Chapter 19: Environmental Monitoring

Konstantinos Ntanos, The National Archives (ret.), Richmond, Surrey
Dr. W. (Bill) Wei, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, The Netherlands

Environmental monitoring is essential to collection care. It provides data for quantifying the exposure to environmental factors, identifying risks to collections, supporting response to those risks and verifying the effect of actions taken. Routinely monitored targets are temperature, relative humidity and light, but also vibration and pollutants, when they pose a threat. The choice of monitoring system depends on the reason for monitoring, the costs of installation, running and maintenance, and the required expertise for interpreting the data collected. A Building Management System is unlikely to serve as a monitoring system for preservation. However, there may be overlap and opportunities for synergy between them. Beyond correct sensor positioning, data periodicity, and appropriate software; a successful environmental monitoring program is one that effects the necessary changes to achieve desirable environmental conditions. Building effective working relationships within an organization is paramount to achieving results, regardless of monitoring and control system. Common vocabulary, frequent meetings, meaningful reports, pragmatic expectations, reasonable justification of requirements and a common goal, are necessary to creating the kind of collaboration needed. Collection care in close collaboration with facilities management can establish an effective monitoring program with tangible benefits for both the preservation of the collections and the sustainability of the organization.


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