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Safety tags in museums

January 02, 2018 2:38 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

Reposted from the Telegraph India

A thumb-sized chip attached to the back of a 6th century Buddha statue at the Gandhara Gallery of Indian Museum is likely to go unnoticed. But the chip will go a long way in ensuring the safety of the priceless exhibit.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are being fitted to art objects at the museum and Victoria Memorial in a phased manner under a scheme of the Union ministry of culture. The museum and the memorial both function under the ministry.

The RFID scheme also covers other prominent museums across the country such as the National Gallery of Modern Art and National Museum in New Delhi, Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and Allahabad Museum.

The system entails fitting a small radio frequency device to the exhibits for identification and tracking purposes. It also includes a tag, a reading device, and a host system application for data collection, processing and transmission.

The gates at the entry and exit points will have sensors that will raise the alarm if a tagged object passes through it. The tags will also help in locating the object during stocktaking.

"The project is part of the Digital India campaign. Not only will it prevent burglary and theft but also help in digitising our inventory," said Rajesh Purohit, the director of Indian Museum.

A 5th-century sandstone half-bust of Buddha was stolen from the museum in December 2004. It was recovered from Odisha a month later.

There are 108,000 objects at Indian Museum. Only around 20 per cent of them are on display, while the rest are in the store.

"Maintaining a checklist of the items and verifying it after visiting hours every day is an exhaustive task. A hand-held reader will make it easier to check the stock. On a trial basis, the reader is detecting every tagged object within a 10-ft radius," said Satyakam Sen, the nodal officer of the RFID project at the museum.

The tender for the project was floated by the National Council of Science Museums. A Chennai-based firm has been awarded the contract to install the system across the museums.

At Indian Museum, the tagging began in July. Some 1,800 objects have been tagged. "We have set a target of tagging 10,000 objects in this financial year," said Purohit.

The Victoria Memorial museum has around 35,000 artefacts, mostly paintings and photographs. "In the first phase, which began in July, 6,000 objects have been tagged. The second phase will begin next month," said Jayanta Sengupta, the secretary and curator of the memorial.

Sengupta explained the utility of the system. "In a museum, some objects are on display, some are in the store, and some are in the conservation lab. We also loan some objects to other institutes. Once all the objects are tagged and the application is ready, detailed information on any object will be available with the click of a finger," he told Metro.

The authorities are taking precautions to ensure that the objects are not damaged during the tagging process. "The adhesive used to stick the chips are undergoing a pH (potential of Hydrogen) test to determine their alkaline or acidic nature. Especially in case of organic objects like skeletons, fossils and textiles, we have to ensure that the adhesive is not too acidic in nature," an official at Indian Museum said.

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