Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Libelium IoT protects historic tapestries

Steve Rogerson
July 23, 2019

Libelium is using IoT technology to protect important tapestries at the Huesca Museum in Spain.
The Spanish company and museum have developed a research project combining art and technology, using the IoT for historical-artistic heritage preservation. Both entities have reached a collaboration agreement led by the museum’s conservation area to measure the preservation conditions of two tapestry masterpieces.
The first one is titled “Tiraz de Cols”, an 11th century piece luxuriously elaborated with gold and silk; the second is the “Tapestry of Roda de Isábena” from the 16th century. In 1979, it was stolen from the cathedral of Roda de Isábena (Huesca, Spain) by Erik the Belgian in one of the largest art thefts to have taken place in Spain.
In 2010, the tapestry was announced at an auction in Belgium and was identified by an art curator who later reported it to the Spanish Civil Guard. The tapestry experienced a long journey with continuous sales and acquisitions in the art market through five countries: Belgium, Germany, Italy, France and the USA. Thirty years after being stolen, and following a coordinated operation between Spanish and American institutions, the tapestry was found in Houston, Texas.
These art pieces need to be preserved in very specific light and humidity conditions. An excess of light causes irreversible loss of colour in the fabric. Likewise, moisture can cause fabric to contract and dilate, damaging the image.
The curators of the Huesca Museum zealously monitor that the tapestry is in the perfect ambient conditions.
“The light adds up, so that natural light, together with the general light of the room and the direct spotlights can affect the art,” said Fernando Sarria, manager of the Huesca Museum. “The pieces should receive 50 lux maximum, although new regulations have reduced it to 30 lux.”
The Tapestry of Roda was restored by the Spanish Historical Heritage Institution, which raises the standards of conservation. A battle for light between visitors and conservatives is thus generated. Visitors usually request more light to see the art while conservatives prefer to preserve a more tenuous environment. This is one of the reasons for the rotation of masterpieces inside museums.
The Libelium Plug & Sense devices have been placed behind both pieces with only the light sensor visible. The data collected by the devices are sent to the internet through a 4G connection and arrive in graphic form to a web page where they can be analysed in real time.
The restoration team of the museum can also record historical data and see how the measurement parameters evolve at different times of the day, seasons of the year and depending on the high or low occupancy of the museum room that houses these pieces. With this information, they can generate reports for themselves or Historical Heritage.
“With this collaboration, Libelium wants to put its innovation and technology at the service of the conservation of Aragonese heritage and inspire other cultural entities to use the possibilities that the internet of things offers for better conservation and enhancement of works of art,” said Alicia Asín, co-founder and CEO of Libelium.
The conservation of historical-artistic heritage not only allows the history of a country continued life, but it is also a catalyst for tourism that contributes to economic activity. This is not insignificant; in Spain, foreign cultural tourism has increased 38% with an economic impact of €14,000m.