Rushden Transport Museum in Northamptonshire is uniquely situated in the Victorian-era Rushden Station. Housing a large collection of items relating to the history of road and rail transport, as well as the social history of the local area, the old station building and the Museum’s storage – a nearby port-a-cabin – are enigmatic surroundings for such collections – but are not ideal environments for displaying and storing sensitive museum collections.
The Museum’s collection includes items made from paper, textiles, metal, wood, ceramics and leather, all of which are vulnerable to environmental conditions, including unsuitable or unstable levels of temperature and relative humidity, which can arise in old or poorly insulated buildings.
To keep track of the difficult conditions in the display and storage areas, the Museum began an environmental monitoring programme in 2011 using Tinytag Ultra 2 TGU-4500 data loggers. Initially, the Museum was using two data loggers and cycling them through the displays and storage, but their collection of Tinytags has since expanded to enable continuous monitoring of temperature and humidity in all areas of the Museum.
Through monitoring, it was revealed that the collections were being kept in conditions where low temperature and high humidity were regularly experienced. Despite the extreme conditions, rust and mould, which can cause significant damage to museum objects, have not been observed in the Museum to the extent that might be expected. Conservation advice suggests that this may be because the Museum is well-ventilated.
In the future, the Museum is hoping to insulate the main building, as this will help to elevate the indoor conditions. Jane Demet, who chairs a team of four volunteers from the Rushden Transport Museum, part of Rushden Historical Transport Society (RHTS), says, “It will be interesting to see what differences show up in the data gathered from the Tinytags once this has been done.”
Beyond this, the Museum, is reluctant to change the environment more significantly – for example, by introducing a permanent heating system – in case such drastic changes would do more harm than good to the delicate environment. Currently, electric heaters provide warmth for winter meetings and Christmas events during the Museum’s normal period of closure and the storage cabin is of wood construction and does not have heating.
The long term monitoring system itself has proved to be an effective solution to managing the Museum environment. Using the Tinytag loggers has revealed consistent trends and predictable fluctuations, allowing the museum to take pre-emptive and preventive actions to protect their collection.
Jane is pleased with how the Tinytags have performed over the years. “The Tinytags are simple to set up, straightforward and flexible to use, especially as we use the data overlay setting that shows us a whole year’s worth of data,” Jane says. “The software is suitable for volunteers and displays enough detailed information for our monitoring programme. We have confidence that the system helps us work in accordance with the national Museum Accreditation service.”
Jane continues, “I am impressed by the significant amounts of data that can be stored by the loggers and completely satisfied with the efficiency of the calibration service offered by Gemini Data Loggers. I also like their small size, inconspicuous shape and good battery life!”
Rushden Transport Museum is a registered charity. As well as the station buildings that house the collections, adjacent buildings and running track are the setting for the Society’s historic vehicles and trains. Regular themed weekend events and heritage train rides are held throughout the year.