Cultural Heritage Environmental Monitoring 

with Intelligent Sensor Systems



 Project description:

This two-year collaborative project (2008-2010) aims to develop an intelligent monitoring system for museums and historic buildings, or objects in transit, and for large outdoor heritage buildings and sites. The project builds on wireless mesh sensor technology (a wireless, non-hierarchical, scalable and self organising sensor network) developed by Senceive Ltd. We have integrated a range of chemical and physical sensors into a single ‘early warning’ system. In the system, intelligence will be integrated that will alert staff to circumstances that could lead to damage. The remote and reliable gathering of data through the exploitation of very low energy consumption, self-powered, geographically distributed wireless mesh networks is another attractive feature of the development.

Monitoring of potential accumulation of pollutants in a display case in the British Museum. Timely detection of potentially adverse circumstances is crucial for successful preservation of cultural heritage.

Each ‘node’ in the network is small, cheap and robust and can both log data and act as a transmitter/receiver for data. Because of the technology involved, the system is very flexible – if a sensor or node fails the network can inform the user and the nodes can automatically reconfigure communication paths. The network can be accessed by a wired connection or wirelessly using GSM/GPRS.

A prototype multisensor wireless node equipped with sensors for temperature, relative humidity, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde and particulates (dust). This  development significantly expands the possibilities of environmental monitoring in heritage environments.
The system is being tested on a number of sites and in a number of applications. The crucial role of the heritage partners is to advise on the monitoring needs, to build intelligence into the system and to provide access to historic collections, buildings and sites. We will also trial this system for monitoring objects in transit. Trial network installation at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, UK (National Trust). Integration of sensors for temperature, relative humidity, UV, visible, and RGB light sensors, dust, volatile organic compounds and formaldehyde sensors has been achieved. Photos: I. Spulber, UCL.. We are convinced that the innovative Heritage Intelligence System represents a true step change in cultural heritage monitoring and management.
Key features of the Heritage Intelligence system
- Simple to install and configure with a highly accessible user interface and tools for management of the system
- Self powered wireless nodes with a long operational life (including power scavenging technology)
- Ability of the network to reconfigure itself and adapt as objects are relocated (or moved in transit) or sensors redeployed
- Ability to support multiple sensors and sensor types in a single sensor node (e.g. temperature, relative humidity, light, pollutants and mechanical monitoring such as shock and tilt) - Built-in intelligence, so that the network can adapt measurement regimes, identify events and generate alerts. The Heritage Intelligence System works on the basis of numerous wireless nodes communicating with each other and each carrying several sensors, as required. The number of possible configurations is unlimited.
Project partners:
Coordinator: Senceive Ltd, contact: Simon Maddison
Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London, contact: Matija Strlic
The British Museum, contact: Catherine Higgitt
The National Trust, contact: Nigel Blades
Historic Royal Palaces, contact: Constantina Vlachou
Hutton+ Rostron Ltd, contact: David Watt


Funding: The partners acknowledge financial support from

Dissemination: Project posters describing work performed with heritage institutions can be downloaded:
The British Museum poster (174 kB)
The National Trust poster (207 kB)
Historic Royal Palaces poster (219 kB)

Other project presentations - past 
- M. Strlic, S. Maddison: "New sensors and monitoring systems to advance our understanding of heritage loss", Solving Challenges in Heritage – The Role of Sensors and Instruments,  Liverpool, 11 Dec 2008
M. Strlic, I. Spulber, M. Britton, M. Cassar, S. Maddison: "Environmental Monitoring with Wireless Intelligent Sensor Systems – ‘Heritage Intelligence’", 2009 Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition, Somerset, New Jersey, 16-19 Nov, 2009.
- I. Spulber, M. Strlic, S. Maddison, C. Higgitt, N. Blades, C. Vlachou, D. Watt, M. Cassar: "'Heritage Intelligence' Environmental Monitoring with Wireless Intelligent Sensor Systems',
9th Indoor Air Quality Meeting, Chalon-sur-Saône, 21-23 Apr 2010.
- M. Strlic, I. Spulber, S. Maddisson, M. Cassar: "Wireless Sensor Networks for VOC Monitoring in Museum Environments", COST D42 meeting,
Chalon-sur-Saône, 24 Apr 2010.

1st International Conference: Chemistry for Cultural Heritage, Ravenna, 30 Jun - 3 Jul 2010.