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Shock news « The Polar Museum: news blog

The Polar Museum: news blog

Shock news

We have noticed some vibration in one of our display cases, which causes lighter objects to shuffle around a little on display.  We have tried sticking the objects down with earthquake wax (which helps with this issue in earthquake zones) but  it’s messy and doesn’t get to the bottom of the problem.  Looking more closely, it turns out that the display drawers under the case are so heavy that they cause vibration when they are shut too vigorously.

We really want to keep the drawers for showing objects from the archives, so we are trying to find a solution.  It might seem obvious that we should get soft drawer-closers like a lot of us have in our kitchen units, but unfortunately this technology is not readily available for museum cabinets, where the drawers are too heavy for the mechanism and also have to be very secure.

While looking for a solution to the vibration, I decided to see if I could measure exactly how much of a problem it is. Luckily, Richard Farleigh at the Fitzwilliam Museum has a nifty gadget for measuring shocks, which he has kindly lent us:

photo 1

The gadget is called a “Shockwatch” and it is designed for packing cases when museum objects go travelling on loan. The device measures vibration during a journey and then the information can be downloaded. So if someone drops a packing case and damages your priceless artefact they won’t be able to pretend they don’t know anything about it!

The Shockwatch needs to be programmed to start monitoring vibration, and this is done with a series of little buttons. First you have to clip them into a special USB device, then apply them to the red bug in the correct place and wait for a special light signal. Between each manoeuvre you have to enter some information on the computer. And if you use the buttons in the wrong order then all the data is lost. It is like an electronic equivalent of a mythical treasure chest, where you need three druids with special keys saying incantations in the correct order under a full moon before you can open the casket…

Despite the curious setup process I am excited to see the results of monitoring. I hope we will be able to see the effect of any solutions we come up with for the vibration problem.  We have installed the red Shockwatch bug behind the information panel in the problem case and will be checking it in a couple of weeks:





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