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RFID Follows Art

International Conservation Services, a provider of art services, is using an EPC Gen 2 RFID solution from Smarttrack and Vernon Systems to track and manage its high-value objects.
By David Friedlos
Dec 16, 2009A collection-management system (CMS) integrated with radio frequency identification technology could allow art galleries and museums to track thousands of valuable items quickly, as well as automatically update movement information.

Smarttrack RFID, which designs track-and-trace systems specifically for museums and art galleries, and Vernon Systems, a CMS developer, will enable users to fast-track collection audits and stock-takes, improve collection preservation through reduced handling, and locate misplaced items quickly.

The integrated system has already been tested at institutions across Australia, including the National Museum of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) library.

Doug Rogan, Smarttrack's business development manager, says extensive testing was carried out to assess tag readability and the system's functionality with galleries' existing storage systems, which are often quite different.

"In one case, there was a number of matted works on paper stacked on top of each other on a metal shelf," Rogan says. "We tagged each artwork in the stack and had excellent tag-read results, except for the artwork on the bottom of the stack. This was due to its close proximity to the metal shelf. By ensuring sufficient air space—using a sheet of 5-millimeter Corflute [a lightweight corrugated plastic material]—at the bottom of this pile, we resolved this issue."

Other lessons learned included the need for near-field antennas (due to the amount of works on paper stacked on top of each other), and the addition of battery-assisted passive personnel tags to identify object handlers as items were tracked.

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