Selecting A Data Logger For Cultural Property Monitoring

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Blog, Wireless Data Logger

Data loggers are valuable instruments, but they are not all the same. There are many factors to consider when selecting data loggers for cultural property monitoring. They will depend on your specific needs and context, such as accuracy, resolution, memory, battery life, connectivity, software, display, size, cost, and durability. By comparing and evaluating these aspects, you can select the best data logger for your collection.

We have talked about some of the characteristics and buying considerations you should take into account when purchasing data loggers for cultural properties in other posts, so we would like to focus this discussion on how your type of institution can affect your data logger choices.

Data loggers for small museums

Some of the main characteristics of small museums is that they often have limited staff, limited budget, and few temporary exhibits. Generally, there is a single permanent exhibit that rarely changes over the years. This means that a small museum will require data loggers that are easy to use, versatile, and long lasting. Depending on the museum, the data loggers should be able to cope with different environmental conditions, such as indoor or outdoor settings, natural or artificial lighting, and variable temperature and humidity levels.

The two main aspects that will likely affect data logger choice for a small museum are cost and staff time. Small museums will have to weigh the pros and cons of getting their staff time back versus the cost of hardware and software with more comprehensive environmental monitoring solutions.

Choosing the right wireless network for data loggers in a small museum

If you haven’t yet read our post on Wifi vs. Bluetooth vs. LoRaWAN we highly recommend you go check it out now! Each type of wireless has its benefits and disadvantages, but let’s look at what would work for a small museum.

As a small museum, you probably:

  • Have no IT support
  • Have few rooms and small collections
  • Have few staff and maybe some volunteers
  • Have a small to medium building with few rooms and some small to medium storage spaces

Based on these characteristics, you should take into account the following:

  • WiFi data loggers will only work as well as your WiFi connection and availability. Make sure you are clear on what your WiFi provider allows. In some cases, there is a limit on the number of devices you are allowed to put on your network.
  • Both Bluetooth and WiFi data loggers will be limited in range based on your walls, doors and tall furniture. You might need to get many more gateways (or routers) than you originally expected to make sure your connection is uninterrupted – so be sure to budget for that too.
  • Bluetooth devices normally expect you to walk around with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device to download the information, so just because a device is Bluetooth and “wireless”, this does not necessarily mean it is automatically uploading information to an internet server. If you are looking for time savings, this is probably not the best choice.
  • If you don’t have an IT support colleague, or the Director’s brother, who happens to be a computer whiz, make sure you will be able to set up your systems by yourself. Be aware that when you buy data loggers as a one-time device exchanged for money, your customer support may be a bit patchy or nonexistent when it comes to setting up your devices.
  • If you do have an IT support team associated with a larger organization under which you live, in an administrative sense, make sure that whatever you buy is in line with their cybersecurity policies. If your network is not encrypted or protected, someone might hack into your data or interfere with your signal. IT departments have been known to take issue with WiFi devices that latch on to the general institutional network for this reason.

Data loggers for large museums

While some of the challenges for large museums remain the same as for small museums, there is an element of sheer size that adds further complexity to maintaining an effective environmental monitoring program. The spaces will be both larger and more numerous. The storage will also be much more extensive, and in some cases, completely offsite. Staff will probably remain limited, and then there are so many other things to think about such as object conservation and loans.

While cost is always important, larger museums will probably be more concerned about getting back staff time so they can do other things and making sure that every person on the team who needs to see environmental data is able to access it, because access barriers will also impact staff time.

Choosing the right wireless network for data loggers in a large museum

As a large museum, you probably:

  • Have large buildings, many rooms with lots of objects
  • Have large storage spaces, potentially strewn over several locations including offsite
  • Have an IT department
  • Have a separate operations and facilities department that deals with your HVAC
  • Have loans coming and going at least once a year
  • Have temporary exhibitions coming and going at least once a year
  • Have staff being pulled in all directions

Based on these characteristics, you should take into account the following:

  • The same WiFi and Bluetooth limitations related to range in small museums will also apply to you. You will need several routers or repeaters to keep your WiFi network covering all the areas you need and will have to get around walls, large furniture, and fire doors. Routers require cables and energy outlets – which might mean you will need someone to come in and set those up too.
  • Remember Bluetooth does not necessarily equal automatic data upload, so your staff time will not be much diminished if you go from USB to BT data loggers.
  • Check with your IT department about cybersecurity breaches. LoRaWAN is not normally an issue as it will not be directly connected to your institutional WiFi, and therefore cannot be used to hack into your other systems.
  • You will be able to ask your IT department to help you with setup, but you might have to get in line before they can help you, which means you could end up with your brand-new loggers sitting in a box for days or even weeks.
  • You might want to make sure whatever environmental monitoring software you use that comes with your data logger allows you to have all your key players in it (including facilities staff, loans officers and insurance agents). This means you don’t have to take time out of your day to share information because everyone will already have direct access to it.
  • Consider LoRaWAN for its extremely wide range, ability to go through walls and even across several floors. It will be especially valuable to you because of its long lived battery, which means you will not waste any time going around replacing batteries.
  • Calibration of equipment: You might need to use several days to collect, calibrate and place your sensors back to their original places. This will require a lot of staff time at least once a year. Do you know what calibration is? Are you still not sure if your sensors are adjusted when calibrated? Is the calibration included in the price of your environmental system management service? You might want to read this article.


Data loggers for historic properties

A data logger for cultural property choice will vary depending on particular characteristics, and historic properties come with their own challenges. While they can be considered akin to small museums, being a historic property also means your building itself comes with its own additional and unique issues as you will be working in some sort of converted building, very likely a residential home, old factory or mill, train station, or similar public building.

Similar to small museums, historic properties will be concerned with budget and staff time, but they will also have particular concerns about building permeability and can be especially sensitive to the weather outside.

Choosing the right wireless network for data loggers in historic properties

Historic properties can be all kinds of repurposed buildings, so we will focus here on old residential spaces. As such, you probably:

  • Have a very permeable building that is not sealed to the elements.
  • Have very few staff, maybe just one or two.
  • Have no IT support.
  • Have narrow hallways, thick walls, dense wooden furniture, maybe high ceilings.
  • Have little to no storage – what you see is what you’ve got, the whole collection is on display.
  • Have very old electrical and plumbing systems which increase your likelihood of fire and water damage.
  • Have identified problematic spaces such as cellars and attics, which are particularly sensitive to humidity-related problems.
  • Cannot easily make changes to the spaces like adding outlets because they will interfere with protected infrastructure. You might need special permits to make any changes at all.
  • Have some outside areas you might be interested in monitoring like associated sheds, stables, or outhouses.

Based on these characteristics, you should take into account the following:

  • Consider the same issues we mentioned above for small museums regarding WiFi and Bluetooth ranges.
  • Consider the same issues for small museums regarding staff time versus budget.
  • Remember that should you realize you need more gateways to cover all your spaces, you might not easily be able to install power outlets for them, so your network will be limited to only those areas your network can easily reach, leaving you vulnerable to environmental blind spots that can begin your worst mold nightmare.
  • Think about your layout. You are probably correctly convinced that your building is permeable to the elements. When setting up an environmental monitoring system, think about doing it in a way that will allow you to identify the worst areas so you can make decisions on the most efficient use of your budget for weatherproofing. Will your WiFi get you to those areas?
  • Don’t forget about any outside areas of the property. If these are a concern, consider LoRaWAN. You can put a data logger there that still connects to the gateway inside your main house and will have its own battery. If you tried to do this with WiFi, you would probably need to plug in a router in that space as well, which could be impossible.

Data loggers for (large) libraries and archives

The challenges for small and medium versus large libraries and archives could be compared to the differences between small and large museums. There will be a difference in magnitude based on the size of the collections, the storage capacity, and the staff available.

As opposed to museums, however, libraries and archives have the added responsibility of directly caring for patrons who request, borrow, return, and generally use the collections on a daily basis. Very much as opposed to museums, the public is allowed into the stacks to browse and handle collections by themselves.

This means that, depending on demand, certain areas of the public-facing stacks might have their own little microclimates for humidity, temperature, pollution, pests, and even organic volatile compounds brought in by visitors. On top of this, the larger libraries and archives must service reading rooms and keep extensive storage areas for collections that are not public-facing most of the time.

What does this mean for a library or archive professional searching for a data logger for this kind of cultural property?

Choosing the right wireless network for data loggers in archives and libraries

As a large library or archive, you probably:

  • Literally have several tons of paper-based material.
  • Have entire rooms full of static and/or mobile metal shelving.
  • Have a solid building with concrete and metal infrastructure to take the weight of your collection.
  • Have extensive storage areas full of material that gets very little circulation.
  • Have an IT support department (sometimes associated to a university)
  • Have reading rooms where people come and go a lot.
  • Have buildings with several floors, including basements, where open public access and free WiFi is expected.

Based on these characteristics, you should take into account the following:

  • Consider the recommendations given above for museums and historic properties and remember that in addition to the regular obstacles museums and historic properties have, you also have rows upon rows of metal shelving filled with dense, paper-based materials as well as solid structures. Test your WiFi range before buying a data logger that won’t connect exactly where you need it.
  • Remember security concerns. Is your IT department okay with your unencrypted environmental monitoring WiFi system being on the same networks as potentially thousands of patrons? Ask before you buy!
  • Think about oversaturating the WiFi. If your data loggers will connect to the same public WiFi you offer, is there a chance your environmental data collection will be hindered by the traffic of your patrons? Make sure you ask IT what they think.
  • Your collections will probably be heavily organic in nature: paper, leather, parchment, etc. This means they are capable of acting as a humidity buffer. They will absorb and release water from the air based on the environmental relative humidity and temperature around them. This means that you are probably much more at risk of serious mold infestations than museum collections. This is particularly risky if you have collections that circulate a lot and worry you most of the time, and a different section of collections that barely move at all. It is easy to forget about them. Make sure you get reliable data loggers that report to you in real-time for those spaces that get visited less often.

Data loggers for outdoor historical sites

Outdoor cultural properties are very different from regular museums in that they are likely to have many small buildings across a large open space of land, perhaps like a historical village. These small buildings, similar to the repurposed historic properties, will be very permeable to the elements. Staff will probably be limited and the budget equally constrained.

The main concerns for environmental monitoring for cultural properties with large outdoor components will probably be the distance between the number of different buildings and their vulnerability to the outside weather. These two together mean that it’s both time-consuming and tiring for staff to collect environmental data manually.

Choosing the right wireless network for data loggers in outdoor sites

As an outdoor historical site, you probably:

  • Have more than one small building with parts of the collection in it.
  • Have limited WiFi and electricity outlet availability.
  • Have old, permeable buildings, potentially far from each other.

Based on these characteristics, you should take into account the following:

  • LoRaWAN will be hands down your best option if you need to have sensors across large open spaces. WiFi connectivity will not be an issue and you can have more than a thousand sensors connected onto a single gateway.
  • Whichever wireless data logger you choose, it will be in your best interest that the data upload is automatic and does not require your input in any way. You do not want to have to walk around gathering data around a whole village. Data loggers with cloud services will also normally have real-time alert systems to let you know when conditions are extreme so that you do not end up with a surprise mold infestation in a building you don’t visit very regularly.
  • LoRaWAN loggers will also have a very long battery life. This means that you will not occasionally have to walk around changing all the batteries across your property. This is not only bad for your time crunch, but also for sustainability.
  • Think about calibration services. Most devices will require a calibration about once a year. This means sending them all off to be serviced for a week or two and then putting them back. If you’d rather avoid this, consider Conserv sensors. They are guaranteed to work within a certain acceptable drift for 3 years and will get replaced for new ones when you renew.


At Conserv, we strongly encourage the use of LoRaWAN for all cases where network range is important and power outlets are limited. However, we understand that challenges will be different across types of cultural properties, and it’s okay to mix and match your solutions to match your spaces, staff availability, and budget.

If you do decide to mix and match, perhaps USB for this place, WiFi for that one, LoRaWAN for this other one – just make sure that you won’t end up wasting a lot of staff time in trying to bring the data together in a meaningful way.

The purpose of environmental monitoring in cultural properties is to allow you to make timely decisions for the protection of the collections you steward, so whichever network and hardware you choose, make sure it is serving your ultimate goals.

We hope this article has helped clarify some of the aspects you should be considering when it’s time to purchase a datalogger for a cultural property. If you are interested in learning more about the Conserv LoRaWAN solution for your spaces, contact our team. We’ll be happy to discuss your unique situation and advise you!

If you have any questions about environmental monitoring, integrated pest management, or just want to talk about preventative conservation, please reach out to us! Don’t forget to check out our blog or join our community of collections care professionals where you can discuss hot topics, connect with your peers or even take a course to get familiar with the Conserv platform.

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