by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor
Having in the past worked at a number of galleries and museums, I noticed a common characteristic of such locations. From the gallery floor to the offices and even deep within the recesses of storage, the air is crisp, cool and clean. The importance of this, as I was told in every position, is paramount to the preservation of the prints, textiles and virtually all other items that may be found on display or in storage. Environmental quality is of utmost importance as excessive or deficient humidity, high or low temperatures, high levels of light and air pollution or fluctuations in any of the above can wreak havoc on artifacts. To ensure the maintenance of these levels, one of the many tasks assigned to me, the lowly intern, was to check and record the light level, temperature and humidity readings for storage and display areas. Taking information from the data loggers and converting it into usable and digitized records was a highly important albeit somewhat mundane task. Fortunately for interns everywhere, most modern facilities use data acquisition systems for recording, organizing and analyzing data of this nature.
Data acquisition, often shortened to DAQ, allows for the capture and conversion of information into useful and easily read data. The first step in any such system is acquiring a sampling of actual physical conditions, such as property or phenomena including temperature, lighting, gas pressure, fluid flow and chemical composition. Sensors monitor such conditions and data recorders keep careful notes. These observations are often inaccessible as measurements are taken as electrical signals. Signal conditioners help to convert this information for later use. In the storage facilities I was to monitor, these components tracked signals and wavelengths much like a seismological chart with a wavering line which I then interpreted and put into the computer spreadsheets. Modern systems instead use analog-to-digital converters which convert signals into meaningful digital values. The manipulated data collected by these systems is stored and compiled over time to present more complete information that a gallery or museum then uses to promote the quality of storage and display environments as well as the artifacts they hold.
The importance of data acquisition reaches far beyond the realm of museum quality preservation. The information acquired, organized and analyzed by myriad types of data loggers and data acquisition software is vital to the preservation of information and promotion of quality control in numerous industrial, commercial and even residential applications. In industry, DAQ helps maintain safety standards while allowing for development of better processes and procedures through the careful calculation and interpretation of collected information. In geology, the seismological charts mentioned above are in fact themselves data acquisition tools used to monitor changes and motion. These data along with that from meteorological applications do more than preserve information and promote the quality of commodities, it can in effect preserve and promote the quality of life as such information is used in storm tracking and warning systems around the globe. The same is true for medical and research based data acquisition.
Data acquisition systems offer much more than the careful conservation of our past. As evident by their many uses in industries across the board, these devices are responsible for the continual advancement of our future. In providing a steady flow of carefully calibrated, converted and calculated information that is easily understood, data acquisition allows for fast and efficient research in applications ranging from museum studies and meteorology to medicine and manufacturing. In generating and preserving quality information, data acquisition systems promote the quality of our past, present and future.