My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Environmental Monitoring

I want to get you up to date with what I have been up to so far, so I hope this will be the first of a number of posts where I write about what I have been up to so far.

My project involves understanding how colour photographs interact with their environment, particularly when stored in an archive (since my work is a collaboration with the National Archives). However, for this to be possible it was important for me to first understand exactly what the environment (both macro- and micro-) is like in the location where they are actually stored, that is, in the National Archives. Thus, the first study I wanted to undertake was exactly this: understanding the micro- and macro-environments present for the photographs in archival storage at the National Archives.

How do you go about doing that? 

There are various methods of measuring the concentration of components in an environment, from passive methods to active methods, continuous methods to single measurements. Most of the equipment on the market has been developed in response to health and safety requirements of limiting the concentration of the said chemical in an environment. This means that they are generally geared towards measuring the concentration levels that would cause need for health and safety issues to be investigated. However, heritage materials are not necessarily damaged solely by chemicals which are of a health and safety issue. Also, the concentrations which are of importance for understanding what the long-term effects on heritage materials (in this case colour photographs) are would often be lower than health and safety standards. This sometimes causes problems in that the equipment available would not be sensitive to the low concentrations you want to measure.

Luckily, the department has purchased over the past months a set of active monitors which measure concentrations of specific pollutants in a continuous manner. This allowed me to use this equipment to obtain readings over a week, thus allowing me the possibility to not only see instantanoues levels, but also to observe and daily cycles that may be occurring. 

Besides these active monitors, passive monitors, i.e. monitors which collect data over a period of time, giving the total concentration of a chemical absorbed during the period of monitoring, were also used. This is also useful since it allows you to observe the dose that the material is getting over the period of monitoring. 

Of course, temperature and relative humidity are important variables to note in an environment. Luckily, the National Archives have their own monitoring system set up to continuously monitor these two conditions, so I could also get more long-term data for these, as they have been monitored for a number of months.

I am currently in the process of analysing the data I have already collected, while still obtaining more data using other monitors for other compounds. By the end of the monitoring period I should have a clearer picture of what variables with respect to environment conditions I should be considering for my experimental phase. Will keep you posted!

In the meantime, you can read more about a project on monitoring of pollutants in the museum environment at the Getty here.

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Filed under: Experiments and Methodology, Research Process, , , , , ,

An Introduction

6 months into my research…

So far I have been mainly reading up and searching the literature about what is already out there. Over the past couple of months I have also started some preliminary studies to help inform the practical portion of my project and help me set up the experiments with a clearer idea of what needs to be done and how. 

Up to now I have been posting the path through my research in my other blog, which is however more of a personal blog. I have now decided to try and divide the two. I may be posting here posts from my personal blog from the past 6 months which are relevant here to try to make this as complete as possible. But expect that to come slowly ;).

Filed under: Research Process, , , , ,

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