Preserving Art Through Tech: Conservators Can Now Adjust Museum Conditions Remotely

Museums have the high-pressure task of keeping the world’s most-valuable art in pristine condition for current and future visitors to enjoy.

To preserve their charges, museum curators must stay on top of humidity, vibration, lighting, and temperature to make sure the art doesn’t suffer any decay.

When Nathan McMinn‘s mother, who worked as a museum conservator, took him and his long-time neighbor Austin Senseman on a walkthrough of an Alabama museum, Senseman and McMinn saw how many museums check environmental levels by manually plugging a USB into sensors every single day.

“We saw this at small and big museums,” Senseman tells Hypepotamus.

“The issue is that wi-fi doesn’t work in most collection spaces as the spaces are big and the buildings don’t carry the signal very well,” he explains.

For the museums that did have working sensors, the data provided was often intensely complex. Only a highly-trained art conservation professional could decipher the insights.

Senseman and McMinn started exploring how low-frequency, long-range radio frequency networks could allow for remote monitoring in galleries.

They identified one network with advantages like excellent range and great power performance, and founded Conserv to commercialize the technology.

Conserv combines proprietary radio frequency sensors with a real-time digital dashboard to identify and flag sub-optimal environmental conditions and provide insights to fix them.

Rather than on-boarding each individual piece of art, Conserv approaches environmental monitoring from a high view, on a per-room basis. Conservators can see overall humidity, vibration, temperature, and lighting factors and adjust them using a drop-down menu.

“We can scan through and see what’s going on in all your different spaces,” says CEO Senseman. “Then we can make some recommendations about how you should be monitoring.”

If any one environmental factor changes, the museum team is alerted.

The platform operates on a freemium revenue model, so if a museum already has their own sensors, they can enroll with Conserv to just use the platform. The Birmingham, AL-based team has been beta testing with 10 customers, including large art institutions and organizations across the country.

They will publicly launch at the end of September.

The startups plans to remain bootstrapped until early 2020 and then seek out a formal round. They’re focusing on developing a predictive analytics component which may include things like outdoor monitoring, pest management, and alerts on upcoming weather.