Please Help Save Haiti’s Artifacts With RFID

A conservator would like an RFID company to volunteer to help tag damaged artworks so they can be identified when the resources are available to repair them.
Published: February 25, 2010

I received an e-mail from Susan Blakney, chief conservator at West Lake Conservators, who is a trained AIC-CERT Disaster Responder for cultural collections (AIC is the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Artifacts).

“We have been asked by UNESCO and Blue Shield to send a team to Haiti this March, to rescue as much cultural heritage as possible,” she writes. “Our best hope is to gather as many works as possible from the ruins and begin emergency stabilization if needed, after brief documentation and digital photography, along with a means to inventory and create a retrievable storage-tracking system. This often means gluing a protective facing of tissue paper to the surface to temporally hold it together for safe transportation and storage, until a treatment can be undertaken. This could be years down the road, and the work is not visible for identification once the protective facing is in place.”

Susan asked if there is an RFID company willing to donate expertise and equipment to implement an RFID tracking system for this important international rescue project. “Before placing each item into storage,” she explains, “I would like to tag each work and, if possible, store the condition notes, emergency treatment procedures completed, and digital photo documentation on the RFID tag, along with using it to track and retrieve the work from storage. With fragile art and artifacts, minimizing handling is crucial to avoiding unnecessary damage. Bar codes are not good for this reason. RFID use would allow a packed crate to display contents without opening, and a faced work to be identified and studied from the information on the tag. RFID is a tool I have long dreamed about using since I learned of Talking Tags, an RFID project in Europe several years ago, and subscribed to this journal.”

Time is of the essence. If you’re interested in helping out with this worthwhile project, please let me know and I will pass your information along to Susan. This would be a great thing to do, and it will, no doubt, generate great publicity for the participating company. Please e-mail me at if you can help out.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.