Some of the most beautiful masterpieces ever created have been tragically damaged or destroyed in incredible ways. The Last Supper, one of Leonardo da Vinci most famous works, was used as target practice by Napoleon’s troops. The bits and pieces we see of it today are the scarce remains that were saved. Other great works of art have seen their demise simply by being exposed to the elements. Temperature and humidity fluctuations may not be as dramatic as French soldiers shooting arrows, but the damage can be just as devastating.
SensorPush is essential for art dealers, collectors and owners. This unique device works as a temperature and humidity sensor, collecting data that can be retrieved via your iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone or tablet. A simple tap of your finger allows you to view the conditions that affect your most valuable possessions and be notified of potentially damaging changes caused by varying environmental conditions.
Variations in humidity can greatly affect a piece of art and potentially damage it beyond repair. Relative humidity is defined according to Webster’s Dictionary as; “the amount of water vapor present in air expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature.” This is a key factor to be aware of when storing or displaying art of any kind. Managing relative humidity becomes more complex with a piece of art depending on the variety of materials used, since many pieces are composed of various materials and mediums.
Three types of deterioration occur with any art piece regardless of the material. Dimensional change comes from humidity and is traditionally difficult to regulate as many small galleries or homes are often not equipped with a hygrometer. Humidity can wreck havoc on any material that can potentially absorb water, including many commonly used materials like wood, paper and canvas. As they absorb water, they grow in size and as they dry, they shrink. This variation, particularly when a variety of media are involved, can cause pieces to crack or split. Many museums will allow a new piece of art to “set” in its crate in order to acclimate to its surrounding temperature and humidity. Consistency is key in avoiding this. The humidity level is somewhat less important than the ability to maintain it consistently over time.
The second element is chemical reaction; these effects can be seen in the yellowing of paper, fading of dyes or corrosion of metals. These reactions increase in pace as temperature increases. For every 18 degree F increase in temperature, chemical reactions in paper are said to double, causing faster decay. Further, if exposed to a climate with high humidity, photos will stick together, damaging or destroying them.
Biodeterioration is the final ingredient to understanding the importance of temperature and humidity’s role in proper art storage. Biodeterioration is the growth of mold or bacteria. This happens when there is an excess of moisture (relative humidity 70% or greater) and heat. These two elements create the ideal conditions for mold to form and thrive, destroying any form of art. Mold can also be extremely hazardous to a person’s health and an expensive issue to fix.
If proper precautions are not taken, objects subjected to various temperature changes can become warped, experience fading of dyes, dislocation of joints, mold and eventually complete destruction. SensorPush is a unique and easy to use tool that provides a precise measurement of temperature and humidity over time. In the past, museums and homes have relied on complicated air quality monitoring systems and expensive measurement devices. SensorPush combines precision with convenience in providing the most updated and modern technology right at your fingertips to ensure that your most valuable art remains in pristine condition.