Tate Britain during an exhibit change

Workshop report: IoT in the conservation of Art

PETRAS and the Tate recently held a meeting to assess the key challenges faced by monitoring a mobile art collection with a size of 70,000 pieces. The meeting looked at how PETRAS could develop IoT solutions to assist with such issues as the collection embrace smart technology.

The meeting was held at the Tate Britain, London, on Monday 8 January 2018. In attendance were a range of PETRAS academics included: Dr David Griffin, Prof. Steve Hailes and Prof. Miguel Rio of UCL, Prof. Carsten Maple from the University of Warwick and Prof. Julie McCann from Imperial College London. The PETRAS academics were joined by senior conservation staff from the Tate including the Director of Collection Care, the Collection Care Research Manager and the Head of Collection Care Research.

The meeting opened with the Head of Collection Care at the Tate introducing the organisation and was followed by an introduction to IoT and PETRAS by Alisdair Ritchie, PETRAS Impact Champion.

The Head of Collection Management at the Tate outlined four areas that had been identified as their main challenges – technical, systems, operations and legal, and governance. Technical challenges included – maintaining the integrity of artworks, tracking the movement of items both indoors and externally. In terms of systems, the Tate outlined the desire to step away from the current manual input of data to a smarter integration with the ability to track items and record contextual information automatically. Some of the legal and governance problems included data protection and the consideration required for a global art collection, for example, different national laws around tracking.

With a broad range of challenges, the decision was made that initial work would focus on the identification and prioritisation of suggested approaches in which IoT could be deployed or developed to produce impact. The Tate will then lead a Steering Board to drive and manage this process, with the aim of having researchers working on use cases. The Tate’s long-term goal is for such a project to change museum practices through enabling current and emerging technologies.

If you are interested in providing input to this project, please contact one of the following PETRAS team members: Graca Carvalho or Alisdair Ritchie, PETRAS Impact Champions.