Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Manuscript conservation with solar energy

TECHNOLOGY WATCH: Disappearing Ancient Texts Could Be Saved by Solar-Powered Device (Owen Jarus, Live Science).
TORONTO — A 13th-century text recording the discoveries of a medieval polymath, a handwritten dictionary that may help decipher ancient texts, a magical text dating back hundreds of years and writings etched on palm leaves that record centuries of history. All of these and many more are in danger of being lost to the elements.

In this race against time, a team of engineers and archivists are developing a solar-powered device to safeguard historical treasures in India.

These documents are written on organic materials that become increasingly fragile over time. Exposure to humidity, sunlight and insects can ravage the texts, while storing them at temperatures that are too high or low can speed up the documents' decay.

What librarians, archivists and conservators try to do is preserve the most fragile texts in areas where humidity and temperature can be easily controlled, taking them out briefly to be put on display or for study. However for facilities in the developing world this can be a problem as the energy needed to power dehumidifiers and air-conditioning equipment may not be available or affordable.

The new solar-powered device that researchers are developing may help solve this problem. The machine itself is remarkably simple: Texts are placed in an insulated container with a dehumidifier and temperature-control mechanism. Solar cells power the equipment, while batteries store power when there isn't enough sunlight.

Additionally, when conditions in the container are just right, the device will automatically power down, conserving energy so that it can automatically turn on when the humidity and temperature rise.

The examples are mostly Syriac manuscripts in Kerala. Cross-file under Syriac Watch.