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RFID Helps Malaysian Museums Track Artifacts

To help it manage its collection, the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur plans to apply passive HF tags to a million items—and the shelves on which they are stored.
By Rhea Wessel
Jun 22, 2007A museum in Malaysia is the first in that country to use RFID to track its artifacts. During the next three to four years, the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur will tag a million relics, as well as the shelves used to store them.

The Malaysian government has been encouraging the development of Malaysia as an RFID hub (see RFID's Silk Road). The government placed a tender on the market and selected an RFID-based museum management application designed by CBS Technology, based in Kuala Lumpur, using CBS's Solmate software. CBS and one of its resellers, Garisan Aspirasi, are implementing the application. The project began in December 2006, while the tagging of 1,000 weapons, as well as the museum's storage shelving, started in April.

Malaysia's National Museum is tagging its collection of krisses, antique daggers indigenous to the region.
The Department of Museums Malaysia (DMM), which manages more than 20 museums around the country, sought the application to help it become more efficient in managing them, and to better identify and track the pieces of clothing, ceramics, weapons and works of art on display. Many relics are kept in humidity- and temperature-controlled vaults beneath the museums. These artifacts are often shared among museums, and the RFID system will help track such inter-museum loans.

At present, artifacts are identified by means of a cardboard tag, on which a museum employee writes down an ID number and other information, such as the relic's owner and period. The cardboard tag is then tied to the object by means of a string, which also passes through a hole in the cardboard tag. Some information about the artifacts is in digital form, but no link exists between the data written on the cardboard and the database of facts and figures about the relics. What's more, says Ken Lee, chief technology officer of CBS, the cardboard tags frequently fall off because the string rips through the cardboard.

The DMM had considered a bar-coded label but decided RFID was a better choice since it's available in so many shapes and sizes. The department is now working with CBS to design a passive tag specific to each type of artifact. For instance, it plans to sew tags into 18th-century clothes that once belonged to a sultan.

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