Cleaner air for the collections


In September 2014 the Royal Military Museum launched an innovative project sponsored by Belgian Scientific Policy (Belspo) called AIRCHECQ. The Royal Museum for Fine Arts, as well as Antwerp University maths, chemistry and restoration studies departments are also involved.

The Airchecq project wishes to prevent collection deterioration by improving the surroundings in which they are displayed and focuses on the study of air quality. It tries to identify toxic elements such as fine dust and gasses. A new measurement tool has been developed, giving the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) index. This indicates to what degree the environment is suitable or unsuitable for the collection items. The data are then used to optimize air quality. In the Airchecq framework a measurement tool has also been developed in the field of heritage conservation.

In 2015 the Museum hired two collaborators to follow the project. They organised measurement campaigns in order to obtain exact data about air quality, developed a workflow for the Museum and supervised data processing. Two Museum spaces have been selected for air quality measurements: the Historic Gallery and the underground central storage facility.

Both the spaces and the collections have been analysed in order to determine the most relevant measurement locations. Indices such as material resistance, image deterioration, value of collection items and building characteristics have been taken into account. Research was also performed on existing air quality levels, with the idea of preventing deterioration of collection items.

In April of this year the first results were presented during the international “Airchecq” congress, a colloquium that also focused on advanced tools for preventive conservation. The project enthused over 80 participants from different heritage sectors.

Below you will find a picture taken with a thermic camera. It is indeed important to determine the cold and warm areas of the building, in order to target what is to be measured. In view of measuring all key environment factors a monitoring kit has been assembled.

This kit is composed of a data recorder measuring the environment. Results are then turned into graphs. The researchers also developed software for automatic data treatment. All of these results give us a precise idea of air quality surrounding the collection items. The scientific team is currently working in the Historic Gallery.

You want to discover this important heritage work? Come and see us at the Museum or visit the Airchecq Facebook page.