The 2 key goals of museums — exhibition and preservation — are sometimes in battle.
Exhibiting an object and exposing it to parts like lighting, fluctuating temperature, humidity and variable air high quality may cause harm and degradation.
The very determination to exhibit an merchandise could imply its future is compromised.
The truth is, nearly all of objects in museum collections are in storage. That is solely partly to do with sources and show house. It’s largely because of conservation necessities.
I’m a researcher on the College of Expertise Sydney and a lighting designer at Steensen Varming. With different researchers and designers, I’m exploring how museums can enhance shows for guests whereas additionally addressing preservation with new advances in lighting expertise and purposes.
These technological advances should be put into apply for the sake of viewers at this time and properly into the long run.
Lighting the way in which
The primary public museums of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century used daylight to light up the collections. However, as our understanding of conservation superior, the degrading results of ultraviolet and visual mild turned a priority.
As electrical lighting turned more and more obtainable — and economically viable — museums and galleries have been fitted with incandescent mild bulbs and fluorescent discharge tubes (generally known as “fluoros”), and daylight was more and more excluded.
Worldwide tips — which balanced the wants of viewers and conservation — have been developed with these applied sciences in thoughts. As all types of mild may cause harm to exhibition supplies by fading pigments and affecting structural integrity, lighting have to be used delicately and sparsely to guard susceptible shows.
I’ve all the time questioned: do fluorescent lights emit UV, and might it hurt me?
However this century has seen main advances in light-emitting diodes, or LED lighting. White LEDs significantly improved the standard of LED lighting, which can be recognised for financial and environmental advantages.
LEDs have very completely different attributes to conventional counterparts: their mild spectrum is completely different, they render colors in a different way, they provide a higher diploma of management and have a decrease potential for harm.
However whilst museums more and more undertake LEDs, they’re nonetheless utilizing the outdated tips. A brand new method to museum lighting requirements is properly overdue.
With LED lighting, we imagine the strict publicity limits below the outdated tips will be extra particularly tailor-made.
This implies extra artefacts will be displayed for longer whereas incurring much less harm.
A key a part of our proposed framework is contemplating the “significance” of objects as a key issue when deciding how a lot mild publicity is ample.
The query of significance is a fancy one in its personal proper, however helps make extra knowledgeable selections for show circumstances: how necessary an object is to show, for the way lengthy it may be on show, and the way a lot compromise is suitable.
Our new proposed requirements embody ideas on:
increasing the classification of the light-sensitivity of museum objects from the 4 classes to eight
introducing a three-tier significance scale to think about the significance and relevance of objects, not simply the supplies they’re product of, and
a versatile framework, permitting museum professionals to regulate the length of publicity versus mild ranges with out compromising objects.
This is not going to remedy all of the advanced questions round mild, conservation and customer expertise, however it would function a necessary adjustment.
By introducing extra specificity and adaptability into lighting tips, we hope we are able to supply freedom to curators, designers and conservators, whereas additionally giving museum guests a greater expertise.
How the appropriate lighting may save the Mona Lisa
Lighting expertise is creating by the day. With good controls and sensors, museums will more and more have the ability to add thematic, theatrical or dynamic lighting overlays to show objects at their greatest — even perhaps personalised lighting profiles for every customer.
We now have to undertake the appropriate tips for this to occur.
Emrah Baki Ulas is a Senior Lecturer at College of Expertise Sydney and an Affiliate at Steensen Varming. He has designed lighting initiatives internationally for museums and galleries.