The Decision Support Tool for museum professionals
The overall concept for AGATO is summarized in the diagram below. It consists of 3 main parts: user´s input, knowledge base query and output. In the first part, users will provide input to characterise their mixed-media objects and the environment in which they are kept. This input will then be used to search the knowledge base for the relevant information on material-environment and material-material interactions that can possibly damage the object. 'Risk warnings' concerning these potentially harmful interactions for the object at hand, together with recommendations to mitigate each risk that has been identified, will be provided as outputs to the user.
The concept for AGATO was developed in collaboration with an external researcher, José Luiz Pedersoli Jr., international expert in risk analysis for heritage collections. (Outline of the online decision support tool : see Annex 1 of ArtGarden Final Report) To build the online decision support tool according to this concept, a case study of the ArtGarden project was used: the casket for the crown reliquary of Holy Thorns and its actual exhibition and conservation environment of the casket and the possible consequences for interactions of the different materials were analyzed in situ.
To put this tool to the test and refine its functionality, a risk analysis was carried out for the Casket for the crown reliquary of Holy Thorns, in the Musée Diocésain of Namur where it is on display. The QuiskScan© method (Brokerhof and Bülow 2016), generally used to get a better overview and understanding of the risks to which a collection or subcollection is exposed, was chosen and exceptionally applied to this single object. In close collaboration with the museum, the different steps of the QuiskScan were executed to map the exhibition environment of the object.
To obtain a complete overview of the situation, all of the 10 agents of deterioration are taken into account: physical forces, incorrect temperature, incorrect relative humidity, fire, water, biological agents, light (and UV and IR radiation), theft and vandalism, dissociation and pollution. The characterization of the object is the core of the process, as the different materials each have their own specific vulnerability. In the next step, their relative value is defined in relation to the other materials. Then, all risks are analyzed according to the vulnerability of each material and the possible exposure to any of the 10 agents of deterioration is determined. Together, these two parameters contribute to formulate the risk level. Ultimately, they are combined with all assembled data to understand where the risk of loss of value is the biggest in the collection and how much of the collection would be lost in that case. The assembling of the data necessary to perform a QuiskScan calls for an important dialogue with the museum. It compiled a 125 questions interview with the conservator and an extensive documentation campaign. The exhibition room of the casket was photographed, and its floorplan was drawn. The room, all fixtures, the exhibition furniture, the technical equipment and location of the collection and subcollection were indicated. In an additional layer, the exposition to risks linked with each agent of deterioration was mapped. A modest measuring campaign was set up to support and complete the date gathered during the interview. A datalogger registered both temperature and relative humidity inside and outside the display case of the casket. A second datalogger was installed to measure light and UV radiation. Punctual measurements of light and UV-radiation were systematically taken on the occasion of two different visits.
The results of the QuiskScan finally allowed to put former concerns into perspective and focus attention to more pressing issues. Light intensity, for instance, didn't proof to be a major concern. Continual measurement of light- and UV-radiation permitted to better appreciate the effects of a basic mitigation action that was put in place. The data clearly showed that with the textile cover light levels were sufficiently reduced to obtain a safe environment for the casket during the period of the measuring campaign.
The whole analysis pondering all risks against each other, provided a reliable reference to test the functionality of the AGATO tool. The automated analysis should eventually grant its user the same risk ranking and allow guidance when it comes to taking decisions on the preventive conservation of a historic mixed media artefact. In this case, both the labor-intensive QuiskScan and the automated analysis from AGATO pointed to the main risk of loss of value by a fire, and by wrong relative humidity.
In parallel with working on a user-friendly front-end for AGATO – in collaboration with the external developer Multimedium – an underlying database was also set up. In a first phase, the constituent elements were determined, in a second phase how they should interact with each other to obtain an adequate risk analysis. Extensive discussion was required in setting up this functional skeleton for AGATO to ensure that the right terms were available for each search in the database and also that a correct calculation could be made for the final ranking of the risks. In this content management system (CMS), heritage risk analysis terminology and parameters were matched with input fields.
Moreover, the CMS meets additional requirements: linking bibliographic references and images to the various elements, keeping an overview of the content that has been added, a structure that makes it possible (in time) to translate the content of the fields and to be able to modify and supplement all content at any time with recent findings. Moreover, the CMS can be completed by different employees (without IT experience).
To make the AGATO prototype work, the necessary content was also entered into the CMS. More specifically, this included the description of 10 agents of deterioration, 18 related questions and 18 materials (present on the Enclosed Gardens and the Casket). For each of these 18 materials, a concise text describes each risk: the potential impact of an effect by an agent. In addition, recommendations are also written out (according to the 'stages of control') to avoid damage, block the agent, detect it and react in case damage has occurred, each time with corresponding bibliographic reference. The almost 400 risks and 1600 recommendations described also include the damage patterns specific to the 35 material combinations included in the CMS.