The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is deploying 11 Praxis/Urban devices as part of a three-year research project on the impact of energy saving strategies on air quality (i.e. temperature, humidity and pollutant levels) in collection storage spaces.
The Image Permanence Institute works to support the preservation of cultural heritage collections in libraries, archives and museums around the world.
Decreasing the carbon footprint by minimising the energy costs of managing collection spaces is a key motivation for this research, alongside better understanding pollutant levels in these spaces. The air quality data gathered will inform best practice for balancing mechanical energy-saving measures to effectively preserve precious cultural artefacts.
Internal air quality in cultural collection spaces
Pollutants to be monitored include PM1, PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these pollutants are present in outdoor air, hence bringing in air from outside tends to increase concentrations in the collection space. Some come from internal sources and build up over time if the space is not ventilated.
As an example, increasing concentrations of SO2 can weaken paper and textiles, lead to “red rot” of leather or parchment and also colour change of pigments in the materials held. Clearly this is an issue of concern for collection managers and their stakeholders, but the technology has not been available to allow affordable, real-time monitoring at parts-per-billion levels until now.
Leading-edge research, supported by South Coast Science
This approach is forward thinking as it is not common practice for pollutants to be regularly monitored by collecting institutions. According to a 2010 survey only 3% of heritage sites in Europe and North America monitor more than temperature and relative humidity.
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