The Rochdale Pioneers Museum is housed in the same building as where the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society began trading on 21 December 1844. The site is regarded as the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement.
The museum focuses on keeping each room as close to the original set-up as possible, and also maintains a large number of original artefacts, including the original minute book from 1844, along with collections of banners and ceramics. In order to reach the ACE accreditation standard, Rochdale Pioneers Museum must be able to clearly demonstrate that it is taking steps to conserve its artefacts for future generations by monitoring temperature and humidity.
The museum re-opened on 29 October 2012 following a major Heritage Lottery Funded refurbishment. In the past, it was clear that the building did not retain heat very well and was prone to drafts leading to potentially damaging dips in temperature. New insulation was added to the building during the refurbishment to combat this. However, the museum had no temperature and humidity monitoring system in place to indicate whether this had led to a more appropriate and stable temperature, nor detect the emergence of new levels and fluctuations in temperature and humidity within the building.
As well as this, artefacts are often loaned between museums, but frequently come with temperature and humidity stipulations that a museum must be able to evidence before a loan is approved. Previously, Rochdale Pioneers did not have this evidence available.
Rochdale Pioneers invested in six FilesThruTheAir™ WiFi Temperature and Humidity Plus sensors (WiFi-TH+) and began to deploy them in key areas of the museum: two on the ground floor and three on the middle floor, placed in cabinets and display cases, and another sensor in a store cupboard for items currently not displayed.
FilesThruTheAir™ sensors provide Rochdale Pioneers with continual, remote monitoring of the temperature and humidity of the banners and artefacts they have on display. The loggers currently capture data every hour on a 24/7 basis, providing the museum with a comprehensive view of temperature and humidity in key areas across the building on demand - even outside of working hours.
The most important aspect of the temperature and humidity monitoring for the museum is that the FilesThruTheAir™ Cloud remote monitoring system can provide automated alerts whenever pre-set temperatures limits are being broken.
The museum staff set up minimum and maximum parameters, and are alerted as soon as these limits are exceeded. These alerts can be sent via text or email to multiple people, ensuring that they can be responded quickly. This makes the maintenance of temperature ranges within display units far more effective.
Finally, FilesThruTheAir™ sensors are wireless and send data directly to the Cloud, presenting data in a clear, professional way. Staff at the museum no longer need to regularly open the cabinets to take readings. This helps better protect and conserve the artefacts, as there are no sudden changes in temperature or humidity whilst data is being collected.
Jennifer Mabbott, Museum Manager said:
“We now have solid results on the fluctuations in temperature and humidity throughout the museum, something we didn’t have before. We spotted these sensors at the Museums Association Conference and I’m so glad we decided to implement them across the museum – we can now pinpoint changes in temperature due to the alert system and make sure we maintain our artefacts for future generations.”
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Rochdale Pioneers Museum
The museum contains a replica of the original shop, containing the same rudimentary furniture, scales, and the items it sold. The museum continues to promote the spirit of the co-operative movement on issues such as women's rights, poverty, education, fair trade and social reform. The museum is owned by the Co-operative Heritage Trust, and managed by the Co-operative College.
It was recently named a ‘hidden gem’ by VisitEngland, an accolade that recognises outstanding attractions going the extra mile to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for visitors.
Arts Councils England (ACE) is one of the organisations that support the work of museums, offering funding to those museums seen to be taking steps to conserve and monitor historical sites and artefacts. Between 2010 and 2015, ACE will invest £1.9 billion of government money and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery fund for arts and culture, in order to help create historical experiences across the country that are accessible to as many people as possible. As well as offering funding, ACE administers the “Accreditation Scheme”, pushing museums to demonstrate that they are maintaining the highest professional standards.