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Conservation Department seminar report

David Thickett
Senior Conservation Scientist, English Heritage

The Victoria and Albert Museum hosted a joint meeting with the Institute of Conservation Science on 5 May 2004. Over 50 people attended the meeting, which consisted of a series of five presentations on three topics.

Hannalore Römich gave an introduction to the LiDo (light dosimeters) project (EVK4-CT2000-00016) that has developed the Lightcheck dosimeters over the past three years. Two light dosimeters have been developed - Light Check Sensitive, LCS, for light doses up to 100,000 lux hours and Light Check Ultra, LCU for doses up to 400,000 lux hours. Each dosimeter comes with a 'calibration' card to enable the light dose to be read from it by eye. The LCU and LCS mainly respond to light, but are influenced by light source, temperature, relative humidity and the oxidising pollutants nitrous oxide and ozone. They do not respond to UV. Issues of quality control and production were discussed by Ron Buxton of Particle Technology Ltd., the company manufacturing the dosimeters. The LCU dosimeters are presently available at ¤40 for five, with LCS presumably available in the near future. The dosimeters have many obvious uses, but will need to compete with the established blue wool standard methods, whose use has been pioneered by the National Trust. They are extremely useful to rapidly assess a location for display and have already been used for this by the author. More detail on the LCS and LCU dosimeters is available at www.lightcheck.co.uk.

Boris Pretzel and Martin Hancock reported on the development of the OCEAN project at the V&A and the new generation of Hanwell radio sensors and software developed for this project. The extremely large scale of the monitoring planned (over 800 sensors) has lead to some major developments in the hardware used. As is often the case in such work, these impressive improvements will not be obvious to the user who will only see a working system, but the auto-registration function for sensors will be appreciated with those users with large systems.

The changes to the software are however both obvious and significant. The most fundamental being a CAD type system of scalable maps to view and interrogate the sensors. This moves beyond the present limitations of the map views with large galleries/buildings. Such a large-scale system will require considerable resources to ensure the sensors are calibrated (which is all too often overlooked for monitoring systems) and functioning properly. The V&A have negotiated a contract with Hanwell to undertake this work. It was interesting to note that keeping the system maintained will cost almost as much as the initial system cost over five years and refreshing to see 'lifetime' costs built into a project.

The widespread availability of the data within the V&A drew some comment after the presentation, with questions about who had responsibility for acting when conditions moved outside those set for a particular gallery or display case. Clear lines of responsibility for reaction to 'out of limit' situations need establishing for any monitoring system of controlled areas and higher tech solutions do not overcome this basic requirement.

Oliver Stahlman described the European Cultural Heritage Network website ( www.echn.net/echn/ ). This is funded by Cologne University and provides tools for communication, file sharing and project management between researchers on a project and for public dissemination of information from that project. The system allows both public and private areas with seven different levels of access and seems to be a much more user-friendly version of that used by many EC projects. The software appeared to provide several easy to use tools, to allow file sharing and controlled updating, news, and dissemination of graphics. As work becomes more collaborative to spread costs and risk amongst institutions, this approach seems an easy and very practical way to manage communications for projects between partners in several locations.