Artguardian keeps watch on the gallery environment

The Artguardian system monitors environmental conditions in galleries, to make sure that artworks aren't harmed

While great works of art should be exhibited so the public can enjoy them, putting those pieces on display also puts them at risk. If environmental factors such as lighting intensity, temperature or humidity aren't in the optimal range, for instance, works can prematurely deteriorate as a result. In order to minimize the risks, three of Germany's Fraunhofer research institutes have collaborated to develop Artguardian, a system that monitors the conditions under which artworks are displayed.

Each Artguardian-monitored piece of art is adorned with four hidden sensors - these register humidity, temperature, lighting conditions, and any bumps or movements. At regular intervals, that data is transmitted to a nearby base station. That station is in turn linked to an IT platform that users can access at any time using a smartphone, to check that everything is within parameters. If any of the preset environmental thresholds are exceeded, an alarm will sound.

Should the artwork not be near a base station for any amount of time, such as while it's in transport, the sensors are capable of recording data for review at a later date.

Not only could the system be useful for alerting gallery staff to inappropriate conditions, but it would also allow artwork owners to remotely check up on the care that their pieces are receiving while on loan. Additionally, Artguardian could be wired into a gallery's environmental systems, so that changes in ambient conditions could be made automatically. Because different types of art require different environments, the system includes a set of guidelines outlining the best conditions for various materials.

Artguardian was developed by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Reliability and Microintegration, Applied Polymer Research, and Building Physics. It is still in the evaluation process.

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