Technology saves heritage of The National Museum of Computing

27th March 2019
Anna Flockett

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) has partnered with network monitoring company, Paessler to protect some of the world’s most precious historical artefacts currently housed in Block H on Bletchley Park. These artefacts, which date from the 1940s to the present day, have played a key role in shaping the technology we rely on today and can function only in specific environmental conditions. Any changes in temperature, humidity, light and even noise can cause damage or machine failure.

Prior to implementing Paessler’s PRTG technology, museum staff would manually have to ensure each of the 14 galleries and rooms achieved the appropriate conditions. However, with the help of PRTG Network Monitor, the museum has been able to automate the monitoring of the environmental conditions.

In each room, Paessler helped install Sigfox-ready monitoring devices to measure a variety of atmospheric conditions - temperature, humidity, UV light levels and noise. Each device can be set to monitor the specific requirements for the resident equipment and alert staff if particular thresholds are approached. As they form part of an IoT (Internet of Things) network, the device recordings are accessible online, meaning authorised users have constant access regardless of their location. The results are displayed in a dashboard, which can be viewed from any device. System Admins can set up alerts so if thresholds are close to being breached, staff are informed ahead of time.

Andrew Herbert, chair of The National Museum of Computing, said: “Although Block H, the home of TNMOC on Bletchley Park, was designed as the world’s first purpose-built computer centre in 1944, at that time there was, understandably, little awareness of the environmental conditions required by the new machines. Today, we need to try to conserve these technologies for decades to come and to exploit today’s knowledge to do so.”

Christian Zeh, Senior Technology Manager at Paessler, said: “The monitoring network at TNMOC is one of the more unusual we have designed and installed, but the need is clear, and the benefits will be felt for generations to come. PRTG offers TNMOC an affordable and easy-to-use monitoring tool which ultimately saves the museum staff significant amounts of time.”

Herbert concluded: “The solution is very elegant and will help in so many ways.  I’m quite sure the computing pioneers would have grasped the benefits immediately. Like our code-breaking wartime predecessors, we have had our unwelcome environmental incidents, but at least now we will receive prompt and timely alerts to help us mitigate developing situations. That frightening night-time incident during the war when the Colossus room flooded would have been easier to manage had our predecessors had the advanced humidity alert that we have today.”

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