Museum climate in a changing world
Over the past 100 years, both research and practice in the area of environmental standards for storage, loan, and exhibition of museum collections have produced rather bewildering results, from oversimplified formulas to complex, yet incomplete research findings. Precipitated by a challenge from the international community to revise recent recommendations proposed by the Bizot group of international lenders, a group met in April, 2010, to develop interim climate recommendations for international loans in a Boston roundtable titled “Rethinking the Museum Climate”. To help provide guidance to the museum community, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) has created the Environmental Guidelines Working Group to provide a platform for conservators and cultural heritage scientists to review past practices in this arena. This article, from the Working Group, aims to summarize some of the historical research that has brought us to this point as well as the recent work that has resulted in our current thinking on environmental parameters. It expands upon an earlier article Crack Warp Shrink Flake that first appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Museum magazine©, American Association of Museums. Updates to this wiki article will be made as the Environmental Guidelines Working Group continues with its work and receives input from the conservation and museum communities.
Collecting institutions are the stewards of a vast variety of cultural heritage objects. A wide range of responses to use, handling and environmental factors can be expected from these artistic and historic objects, given the diversity of materials and methods used to create them, and their often long histories of use and restoration. While acknowledging the profound effects of specific agents, such as wavelengths and intensity of light, particulate deposition, pollutants, biological organisms and pests, this paper focuses on the question of temperature and relative humidity.
Very different states of preservation may be observed in similar artifacts and works of art exposed to similar conditions. Cracking, warping, shrinking, and flaking observed in some objects subjected to climatic extremes may not be apparent in others exposed to the same conditions. Under inappropriate conditions, bronzes can erupt with powdery green corrosion and paper objects sometimes become flocked with mold in the high humidity of summer. Actual droplets of liquid may form on glass or enamel inside museum exhibition cases, and when heating is used in winter, white salts can exude from the pores of objects constructed of stone. Long cracks may appear in wood or ivory sculpture, while skins, parchment, or paper often cockle or tear. Certain materials appear more sensitive than others to specific environmental conditions. With so many different reactions possible, how do we decide what conditions best preserve entire collections?
During the past 40 years as the technology of air conditioning improved dramatically, standards for temperature and relative humidity evolved as a way of ensuring a suitable environment for artifacts whether they were in storage, on exhibition or loan. The notion of “ideal” conditions emerged and 50% ±5 RH and 70°F ±2 ( 21°C) (in the U.K. 50% and 19°C ), became a convention used by curators, conservators, registrars, and engineers. These specifications have been written into building plans, collection policies and loan agreements as an effort to codify best practices in construction, handling, storage, and display. “Much of the success of a simplistic approach has nothing to do with whether or not museums actually believe that ideal control is ideal for collections, but with the fact that a single target makes life much easier for architects, HVAC engineers, curators….and, not least, conservators.”1
After 40 years of advocating for environmental standards why are we revisiting them now? In the present difficult economic times, the cost and production of energy have come under scrutiny with regard to museum operations and budgets. Within museums, lighting systems, architectural design, procurement processes, and disposal policies are all being examined. Understanding the high costs involved in maintaining “flatlined” conditions of temperature and relative humidity, the museum community has been examining whether these conditions really reflect best practices for the preservation of collections. The unique nature and variability of museum objects, their materials, manufacture, and history, make it difficult to generalize about optimal display and storage conditions, and a simple, single standard for all materials will not be sufficient. The present discussions aimed at simplifying environmental requirements for loan serve as a catalyst for the larger discussion. Is it about saving money? Saving energy? Or saving the collections? The complicated relationship between development of sustainable energy practices, cost savings and the long-term preservation of cultural heritage cannot be easily untangled.
Reviewing the historical background of museum environmental control increases our understanding of how our current standards may be the result of decades of compromise between HVAC limitations, human comfort, preservation research and oversimplification. The development of American industrial heating technology begins in 1905, when South Carolina textile manufacturer Stuart Cramer attempted to improve the handling of cotton in his factory by adding moisture to the air, coining the term “air conditioning.” In the same year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) reported their determination, “following the experience of European museums,” to establish climate parameters ranging between 50 and 60°F, in order to keep the relative humidity at least as high as 50%.2
Erected in 1908, the new building at the MFA was reportedly the first art museum to introduce humidification and a system, called “air washing”, in which air circulated through a water system to remove pollutants. Two years of research including record keeping and variations in relative humidity led the building staff to determine that preservation was enhanced between 50-55%RH. However, problems of corrosion were noted on metals, armor in particular, and suggestions were made that these sensitive materials be isolated3. By 1924, numerous museums in the U.S. including the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum) were operating at 55°F during the winter months, which had the additional benefit of relieving the museums of checking wraps at the door.4
Throughout the 30s, a spirited discussion evolved on the subject of optimal temperature and relative humidity and the effects of extremes on works of art, artifacts, and archaeological materials. Innovative control mechanisms were revealed, as for example, in the use of canvas fire hose with water sprays, fans and silica gel to control the humidity for the Mantegna cartoons at Hampton Court5, the use of salt hydrates in enclosed spaces, or the use of blankets in galleries to moderate relative humidity levels6. During the 1930s, 60% RH and 60°F are cited by various authors as optimal conditions for collections7. In 1942, wartime restrictions of energy consumption required adjustments to climate strategies in which a wider range of relative humidity (55-65%) and temperature (50-70°F) were employed. This lead to observations of fatigue in biological fibers that had been subjected to alternating stresses as a result of these wider parameters8. Although much attention is given to such mechanical damage, by 1942 the acceleration of some chemical damage is noted in acknowledgement of the relationship between high relative humidity and biological growth9.
From 1939-1945 during World War II, Britain’s National Gallery collection was stored for safety in Manod Quarry, Wales. Conditions were maintained at a very stable 58% RH and 63˚F. Significantly, documented observations revealed no additional damage occurred during the five years in this stable environment, yet cracking, blistering, and flaking resumed when the collections were returned to uncontrolled galleries in London. When air conditioning was introduced in 1949 at the National Gallery of London, 58% was chosen as a target value, representing the average relative humidity in London after observations, not of the behavior of paintings, but of the weight of blocks of wood in the galleries.10
By 1960, Harold Plenderleith collected data from a number of museums, whose RH values ranged predominantly from 50-60%.11 As this thinking progressed, single values or ranges for appropriate RH were developed that focused almost exclusively on the mechanical behavior of organic materials. Chemical degradation was not addressed to the same extent, and the needs of inorganic materials rarely appeared in the literature. The environmental conditions under which these two types of damage – mechanical and chemical — might be best mitigated for different materials can frequently be expected to be at odds. Can a single standard address all of these requirements?
Although visitor comfort has clearly played a role in environmental standards from the beginning, by 1956 temperature in museum galleries is described purely as a function of visitor comfort, while high relative humidity is described in relation to its effect on human activity. Harold J. Plenderleith fixed the lower limit of relative humidity at 50%, citing observations of damage to organic materials, particularly thin, painted wood panels, below this percentage. He sets the upper limit at 65%, considering mold growth, and a temperature range of 60-75° F (16-25° C).12
In 1964, Richard S. Buck comments on Plenderleith’s specific recommendations of 58% RH and about 63°F for picture galleries as “so rigorous as to be almost unattainable in many American climates.”13 In the 1964 Museum News Technical Supplement, Buck acknowledges that temperatures beneficial to collections are below those practical for human comfort. He suggests a temperature of 68°F, and, acknowledging the complexities of providing appropriate humidity levels for mixed collections, suggesting 45-55% RH.14 Buck further elucidated his comments by creating a table detailing specific requirements for different materials. In part II of the same technical supplement, Amdur refers to the dangers to building structure of attempting to maintain high humidity levels in cold climate winters, while noting the great variability of conditions required to best preserve different materials. He states further that diurnal and seasonal variations should best be held as close as possible.15
In the 1960s, reports from various museums seemed to endorse a “safety zone of 50% to 60%,” based on empirical observation of damage or lack of it, but allowed for lower relative humidities in climates where it could not be avoided and the objects had grown accustomed to such conditions.16
The publication of Garry Thomson’s book, The Museum Environment17 in 1978, focused attention on preventive conservation, and promoted the idea that the control of environmental conditions could minimize damage to artifacts and slow their deterioration. Although Thomson had outlined environmental parameters as options to be taken within the context of particular climate zones and object requirements, before long, specific and rigid values of 50% ±5 RH and 70°F ±2 were adopted on a world-wide basis. Energy was cheap, so cost was not a factor; it was presumed that greater precision in limiting climate variations would result in a more perfect environment for collections. Over time, these guidelines became a convenient standard to which museums and borrowers were held for collecting institutions overall, in storage, exhibitions and for loans, in spite of the likelihood that these conditions could seldom be maintained without deviation in many museums.
As collecting institutions attempted to implement these standards, it became evident that they had great potential to damage the historic structures housing them. In recognition of this fact, The New Orleans Charter for Joint Preservation of Historic Structures and Artifacts was adopted by the Association for Preservation Technology (APT) and AIC in 1992. The charter states that measures should not be undertaken which promote the preservation of either the historic structure or the artifacts at the expense of the other. But in cold climates, attempting to maintain a historic building interior at 50% RH would certainly cause condensation within the walls of the structure in winter, in time leading to mold growth and rotting of the building.
At the same time, research was undertaken to better understand the nature of damage to the materials of art, and the conditions under which they might best be housed.
Research into the structural responses of wood, adhesive, and painting materials to changes in relative humidity conducted at the Smithsonian Institution18 and Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI)19 during the late 1980s and 1990s showed that some types of organic materials were more physically resilient in a wider range of relative humidity than had been previously assumed. Computer modeling was introduced to predict the effects of environmental changes and determine failure rates.20 Based on this research, and cognizant of the potential for damage to historic structures addressed in the New Orleans Charter, the Smithsonian announced new, broader recommendations for environmental conditions in 1994. Not all museums or conservators embraced these recommendations. Today, at the Smithsonian, these remain at 45% ±8% RH and 70°F±4°; Heated debate ensued within the conservation community about whether and which materials or objects might be damaged by exposure to wider ranges of relative humidity and about the implications of applying broadened parameters to collections as a whole.21
While many institutions began to adopt the revised Smithsonian or CCI ranges, others have felt that not enough research has been done to date on the response of individual materials and objects to changes and extremes in temperature and relative humidity to make changes advisable. More recent research into the effects of temperature and relative humidity on paper, film, and magnetic media suggest that chemical stability of these materials doubles for each drop in temperature of 5°C, and shows similar trends when relative humidity is lowered. Other research has shown that cellulosic materials in general may be better preserved at lower relative humidity levels22 than have been traditionally assumed safe, or that they may be more resilient upon exposure to a wider range of cycling than previously understood.23 In spite of generalizations that might be made based upon this research, the importance of the use, treatment, and exposure history of an object on its long-term preservation should not be underestimated and must be factored in to specific requirements for temperature and relative humidity especially in relation to the parameters for special exhibitions and loans.
In 1999, the addition of climate specifications for museums, galleries, archives and libraries in the Applications Handbook of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) by scientists from the CCI and others, led to a more realistic, risk-management based approach to the choice of temperature and relative humidity specifications. This approach was linked to the sensitivity of collections and the architectural setting, clearly outlining the risks associated with each choice.
The 2003 climate specifications for museums, galleries, archives and libraries in the ASHRAE Applications Handbook, followed by revisions up to the latest version of 2019, represent the most current thinking on the subject. Michalski aptly labels our previous assumption of a single standard as a “fundamentalist” approach and presents the more complex, but far more accurate notion that a single standard cannot be applied to all collections and all materials. The reasons include:
- the difficulty and expense of achieving stringent and narrow control of temperature and relative humidity;
- the now substantial body of research indicating that many materials may be more resilient to relative humidity fluctuations than assumed previously;
- the fact that certain types of materials require specific climate ranges distinctly at odds with the single standard; and
- the damage to architectural structures caused by attempting to maintain close RH control during northern winter conditions.
Michalski instead proposes a flexible approach incorporating elements of risk assessment, the concept of “proofed RH” (an understanding of the largest temperature or relative humidity fluctuations previously experienced by an object), an ability to predict failure/fatigue for individual materials, and an understanding of the past conservation treatment history of individual objects.24
Discussion of sustainability: Rethinking the Museum Climate
Today, concerns about sustainability as well as the economic downturn have stimulated a reexamination of many aspects of museum practice. Within the broader discussion of sustainable practice, the imperative to take action has intensified. In 2008, the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) presented the first in a series of IIC roundtable discussions called Dialogues for the New Century: Discussions on the conservation of cultural heritage in a changing world. “Climate Change and Museum Collections” explored the subject of climate change and its potential effects on cultural heritage.25
Discussion of loan parameters: the National Museum Directors’ Conference and Bizot
In 2008, the National Museum Directors’ Conference (NMDC) in the U.K. focused on a long-term, broad plan for minimizing excessive use of energy in the care of collections, reducing museums’ carbon footprint overall.26 Within the broader discussion of sustainable practice, a reexamination of environmental parameters for museum collections has emerged. There are many stakeholders in the discussion, and several varying, but perhaps converging positions have been outlined recently.
The issues motivating the discussion of broadening environmental standards included the need for:
- reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint in all museum activities
- accurately reflecting current museum practice in environmental policy
- streamlining loan procedures
- better understanding of environmental effects on the deterioration of objects
Setpoints of 50%RH and 70 degrees (sometimes referred to as the 50/70 standard) neither reflects current practice in museums, nor does it embody conditions optimal for preservation of collections. Many exceptions and questions remain, even though the conservation community acknowledges today that many objects in museum collections are able to withstand a broader range of climatic conditions than are reflected in this single standard.
Although significant research has been undertaken on the mechanical effects of changes in temperature and relative humidity on hygroscopic materials, some on paints, and some on chemical degradation processes,27 our understanding of the complexity of degradation processes at work on cultural materials is incomplete, requiring further study. As environmental parameters are broadened, it is clear that a more individualized approach must be adopted to ensure the safety of the most sensitive objects.
Integral to the overall discussion, but limited in scope, are the recent discussions about environmental guidelines for museum loans. In 2009, the International Group of Organizers of Large-Scale Exhibitions, known as the ‘Bizot Group’ proposed a broader set of interim temperature and relative humidity guidelines for hygroscopic materials on loan, based on the NMDC proposal. The goal was to simplify international loans, reduce costs, and decrease the carbon footprint (though they did not suggest the elimination of air cargo flights for transport as a way to quickly reduce their carbon footprints). The Bizot Group proposed a range of 40-60% RH and 15-25˚C (59-77˚F) without addressing non-hygroscopic materials or special circumstances. This action prompted the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) to request input from the conservation community.
The history of environmental standards for loans mirrored those for the overall museum environment. In 1971, ICOM set up a working group to examine the problem of insuring the safety of cultural property during loans, and in 1974, they issued ICOM Guidelines for Loan Agreements,” which included, under the topic of physical security, the following statement: “RH in normal circumstances should be maintained at 54%±4”.28 More recent publications veer away from stating strict ranges permitting the institutions to negotiate mutually agreeable terms.29 Complicating the issue is the impossibility of isolating the environmental conditions in display spaces from the overall museum environment in many facilities.
In April of 2010, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles hosted a meeting in Boston of 60 representatives of large museums in North America and the U.K., along with scientists working in the field of museum climate. The goal of the Rethinking the Museum climate, the “Boston Roundtable” was to share current practice and experience related to environmental parameters in major collecting institutions in North America, and to formulate a response to the AAMD request for a re-examination of environmental requirements for loans.
During the Boston meeting, the following basic principles were agreed on as a preliminary step towards an interim guideline:
- For the majority of cultural materials, a setpoint in the range of 45-55% RH with an allowable drift of +/-5%, yielding a total annual range of 40% minimum – 60% maximum, and a temperature range of 59-77˚F is acceptable. It is advisable to minimize fluctuations.
- Some cultural materials require different environmental conditions for their preservation.
- Loan requirements for all objects should be determined in consultation with conservation professionals.
In Milwaukee in May 2010, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and the International Institute for Conservation (IIC) presented “The Plus/Minus Dilemma: The Way Forward in Environmental Guidelines” as part of the IIC Dialogues for the New Century: Discussions on the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in a Changing World. This roundtable provided the American community the opportunity to discuss changes to environmental guidelines in consideration of today’s concerns about energy consumption, the global economic downturn and stewardship of natural resources.30
Following the discussion in Boston and Milwaukee AIC organized the Environmental Guidelines Working Group to review of current practices at major museums in North America, and assess interim guidelines developed at the Boston meeting in relation to discussions in Milwaukee and among conservators and conservation scientists. From these discussions, new interim guidelines for loans were developed for presentation at the June 2010 AAMD meeting in Indianapolis. Following discussion, the second version of the revised interim guidelines for loans state:
- For the majority of cultural materials, a setpoint in the range of 45-55% RH with an allowable drift of +/-5%, yielding a total annual range of 40% minimum – 60% maximum, and a temperature range of 59-77˚F is acceptable. Fluctuations must be minimized.
- Some cultural materials require different environmental conditions for their preservation.
- Loan requirements for all objects must be determined in consultation with conservation professionals.
Acknowledging that a departure from the single standard requires the ability to exercise professional judgment, these interim revisions accept the proposed setpoint range, require the minimization of fluctuations and require consultation with conservation professionals. Following the AAMD June 2010 meeting and in consideration of the response to the interim guidelines, the AIC Working Group is developing a process for further review. This review will be conducted in conjunction with the work ongoing in the European and Canadian communities, and will take into consideration other work on the subject, specifically the further development and revision of environmental guidelines by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) “Guidelines for Museums, Galleries, Archives and Libraries.” Climate control standards will be discussed in a one day meeting of the AIC Environmental Guidelines Working Group. This process will proceed in conjunction with our international colleagues, along a similar timeline, with international discussion and ratification proposed for 2012.
The National Museum Directors Conference called for a reduction in the dependence of cultural institutions on fossil fuels while continuing to meet their responsibilities to preserve collections and make them accessible to the public.
Just published in March of 2012, the British Standards Institute (BSI) Specification for Managing Environmental Conditions for Cultural Collections, was developed by the National Archives and the Collections Trust.31 Rather than proposing immutable guidelines, it aims to facilitate strategic and appropriate decisions about environmental management in collections.
The museum community acknowledges the practical difficulties, high cost and non-sustainability of maintaining flatlined relative humidity and temperature in the exhibition environment, and that a single standard is not suitable or necessary for all collection objects. Currently, the rational for maintaining the standard of 50 +/- 5% RH is based upon the assumption that drift will occur and that tight control is impossible to achieve. If standards are broadened, it will be crucial to ensure that the needs of individual objects, groups of objects, and sensitive materials are recognized and addressed by the use of microclimates or other mitigation measures. These changes may be at odds with curatorial, design, and aesthetic priorities, but may need to take precedence over them in order to ensure the long-term preservation of collections. Any alteration of standards will demand a greater understanding of case design and the use of microclimates to create appropriate environments for sensitive objects and a demonstration that the measure implemented are cost-effective. Developing alternate standards will require proper evaluation of the moisture content and sensitivities of objects in order to design safe and sustainable environments.
1. Michalski, S., “The Ideal Climate, Risk Management, the ASHRAE Chapter, Proofed fluctuations, and toward a full risk analysis model.” Experts’ Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies. Tenerife, Spain (2007) http://www.getty.edu/conservation/science/climate/climate_experts_roundtable.html
2. Sturgis, R. Clipston. Report on Plans Presented to the Building Committee. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1905: 51.
3. McCabe, J.W., “Humidification and Ventilation in Art Museums.” The Museum News. September 1, 1931: 7-8.
4. Lull, R.S., “The New Peabody Museum, Part I - Building and Equipment.” Museum Work. Vol. VII No. 4: 114-115.
5. Macintyre, J.A. “Comments on antiquities and humidity.” The Museums Journal. Vol. 33 No. 12: 459-460.
6. Macintyre, J.A., “Some notes on atmospheric humidity in relation to works of art.” Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1935: 51, and Rawlins, see note 7.
7. Coremans, P. “Air conditioning in museums.” Museums Journal . 36 (November, 1936): 341.
8. Rawlins, F.I.G., “The control of temperature and humidity in relation to works of art.” Museums Journal. 41 (March 1942): 280-281.
9. Rawlins, F.I.G., “The control of temperature and humidity in relation to works of art.” Museums Journal. 41 (March 1942): 281.
10. Keeley, T. and F. Rawlins, “Air conditioning at the National Gallery, London. Its influence upon the presernvation and presentation of pictures.” Museum. (UNESCO, Paris) 4: 194-200, cited in Erhardt, D., C. Tumosa and M. F. Mecklenburg, “Applying science to the question of museum climate.” In: T. Padfield and K. Borchersen, Museum Microclimates, Contributions to the Copenhagen conference. The National Museum of Denmark, (2007): 11-17.
11. Plenderleith, H.J. and P. Philpott, “Climatology and conservation in museums.” Museum 13 (1960) 202-289.
12. Plenderleith, H.J. and A.E.A. Werner, The Conservation of Antiquities and Works of Art. Oxford University Press, London, Second Edition. (1962): 7-11.
13. Buck, R.D., “A specification for museum air conditioning.” Museum News. (6) Technical Supplement, Part I. (1964) 54.
14. Buck, R.D., “A specification for museum air conditioning.” Museum News Technical Supplement Part I. No. 6 (December 1964) 54-56.
15. Amdur, Elias J., “Humidity control – isolated area plan.” Museum News Technical Supplement Part II. No. 6 (December 1964) 58.
16. Erhardt, D., C. Tumosa and M. F. Mecklenburg, “Applying science to the question of museum climate.” In: T. Padfield and K. Borchersen, Museum Microclimates, Contributions to the Copenhagen conference. The National Museum of Denmark, (2007): 12.
17. Thomson, G. The Museum Environment. Butterworth/Heinemann, London, 1978.
18. Mecklenburg, M.F., and C. Tumosa, “Mechanical behavior of paintings subjected to changes in temperature and relative humidity,: in Art in Transit, ed. M.F. Mecklenburg (Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1991), 173-216; M.F. Mecklenburg, “Some mechanical and physical properties of gilding gesso, in Gilded Wood, eds. D,. Bigelow et al (Madison Conn: Sound View Press, 1991): 163-170.
19. Michalski, S., “Paintings – their response to temperature, relative humidity, shock and vibration,” in Art and Transit, ed. M.F. Mecklenburg (Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1991): 223-248.; S. Michalski, “Crack Mechanisms in Gilding” in Gilded Wood, eds. D. Bigelow et al (Madison, Conn: Sound View Press, 1991):171-181.
20. Mecklenburg, M. F. and C.S. Tumosa, “The relationship of externally applied stresses to environmentally induced stresses.” In H. Saadatmanesh and M.R. Ehsani, eds, Fiber Composites in Infrastructure, NSF and University of Arizona, (1996) 956-971.
21. Christensen, C., “Environmental standards: Looking beyond flatlining?” AIC News. 20:5 (1995)1-8.
22. Erhardt, D. and M.F. Mecklenburg, “Accelerated vs natural aging: effect of aging conditions on the aging process of cellulose.” Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings. 352 (1995) 269.
23. Mecklenburg, M.F., C.S. Tumosa, and D. Erhardt, “Structural response of painted wood surfaces to changes in ambient relative humidity.” In: eds. V. Dorge and F. Carey Howeltt, Painted Wood: History and Conservation. Proceedings of a symposium organized by the Wooden Artifacts Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and the Foundation of the AIC. The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 1994: 464-483.
24. Michalski, S., “The ideal climate, risk management, the ASHRAE chapter, proofed fluctuations, and toward a full risk analysis model.” Contribution to the Experts’ Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies. April 2007, Tenerife, Spain. http://getty.art.museum/conservation/science/climate/paper_michalski.pdf
25. Saunders, D., “Climate Change and Museum Collections.” Notes and Reviews. Studies in Conservation. 53 (2008) 287-297.
26. National Museum Directors’ Conference, “NMDC guiding principles for reducing museums’ carbon footprint”. n.b. This document focuses on a long term, broad plan for minimizing excessive use of energy in the care of collections overall; altering environmental standards for loans is one component of this strategy.
27. Reilly, J. “Specifying Storage Environments in Libraries and Archives.” In: From Gray Areas to Green Areas: Developing Sustainable Practices in Preservation Environments, 2007, Symposium Proceedings. The Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin. (2008) http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/kilgarlin/gaga/proceedings.html.; Dionisi Vici, P., P. Mazzanti, L. Uzielli, “Mechanical response of wooden boards subjected to humidity step variations: climatic chamber measurements and fitted mathematical models.” Journal of Cultural Heritage. 7 (2006) 37-48; DuPlooy, A.B.J., “The influence of moisture content and temperature on the aging rate of paper.” Appita 34: 287; Erhardt, David and M. Mecklenburg. “Accelerated vs natural aging: effect of aging conditions on the aging process of cellulose.” In: P.B. Vandiver et al., eds., Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings 352 (1995) 247-270. Erhardt, D. and M. Mecklenburg, “Relative humidity re-examined.” A. Roy and P. Smith, eds., Preprints of the Contributions to the Ottawa Congress. International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, London (1994) 28-31; Erhardt, D., M.F. Mecklenburg, C.S. Tumosa and T.M. Olstad, “new vs old wood: differences and similarities in physical, mechanical and chemical properties.” In: J. Bridgland. ed., ICOM Committee for Conservation: Preprints Vol. II. 11th Triennial Meeting, Edinburgh (1996) 903-910; Hansen, E., S.N. Lee, H. Sobel, “The effect of relative humidity on some physical properties of modern vellum: implications for the optimum display and storage conditions for parchment.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation. 31: (1992) 325-342; Graminski, E.L., E.J. Parks, E.E. Toth, “The effects of temperature and moisture on the accelerated aging of paper.” In: ed. R.K. Eby, Durability of Macromolecular Materials. ACS Symposium Series 95. (1979) 341-355; Michalski, S., “Double the life for each five-degree drop, more than double the life for each halving of relative humidity.” In: ed, R. Vontobel, ICOM Committee for Conservation Preprints, Vol. 1 13th Triennial Meeting, Rio de Janeiro (2002) 66-72.
29. Anon., Standards and Best Practices in U.S. Museums. AAM (2008)
31. Anon., BSI PAS 198: 2012. http://shop.bsigroup.com/en/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030219669
Climate Change Resources
Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)., Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2007) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. Unequivocal linking of human activities, specifically the burning of fossil fuels, to global warming. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/contents.html
Parry, M.L. , O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds), Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2007) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/contents.html
B. Metz, O.R. Davidson, P.R. Bosch, R. Dave, L.A. Meyer (eds), Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
Pachauri, R.K. and Reisinger, A. (Eds.), Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2007) IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/contents.html
Climate Change and the Historic Environment, Centre for Sustainable Heritage at University College London (2005) based on 2002 projections for trends in climate change in the UK. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainableheritage/climate_change.htm
The full report (Cassar, M. (2005) “Climate change and the historic environment.” Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London: London, UK.) may be downloaded here: http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/2082/
Noah’s Ark Project, funded by the European Union’s 6th Framework Programme on Research, conducted research to describe and predict the future effects of climate change on Europe’s cultural heritage. http://noahsark.isac.cnr.it/
Jones, S, and M. Day, It’s a Material World. Caring for the Public Realm. DEMOS (2008)
The choice of what things to conserve and how to conserve them simultaneously reflects and creates social value. This pamphlet demonstrates the social value of caring for the material world, and highlights the importance of conservation as being integral not only to the culture and heritage sector but also to social well-being. be downloaded here: http://www.demos.co.uk/publications/materialworld
Other recent initiatives include: EGOR, Environmental Guidelines; Opportunities and Risks, a project in the U.K. funded by the Arts and Heritage Research Council (AHRC) / Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as one of their Science and Heritage programs.
Principal Investigator Nancy Bell, Head of Collection Care at The National Archives, worked with co-investigators Stephen Hackney from Tate and Dr. Matija Strlič, from the Center for Sustainable Heritage at University College of London. This project identified research priorities critical to the development of environmental guidelines within the context of changes in global climate and raised awareness of the costs and risks of current environmental standards, disseminating information gathered to governmental agencies, professional, business and academic communities. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/projects-and-work/conservation-research-development.htm/evaluation.htm
Sustainability in Museums Resources
Tedone, M.,(ed). From Gray Areas to Green Areas: Developing sustainable practices in preservation environments (2007). The Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record, School of Information, the University of Texas at Austin. (2008) http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/kilgarlin/gaga/
Henry, W. “Preventive Conservation, Sustainability, and Environmental Management.” GCI Newsletter 22:1 (2007) http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications/newsletters/22_1/feature.html
Maekawa, S. “Passive Design, Mechanical Systems, and Doing Nothing: A Discussion about Environmental Management” GCI Newsletter 22:1 (2007) http://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications/newsletters/22_1/feature.html
Going Green: towards sustainability in conservation Friday 24 April - Friday 24 April 2009
Ryhl-Svendsen, M, Lars Aasbjerg Jensen, Poul Klenz Larsen and Tim Padfield, “Do standard temperatures need to be constant?” - Going Green: towards sustainability in conservation. British Museum, April 2009 http://www.conservationphysics.org/standards/standardtemperature.php
American Institute for Conservation Green Resources Sustainable Practices for Conservation: http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=943&parentID=472
Selected Environmental Standards and Guidelines
The summaries in this section were provided by Joelle Wickens, Jeremy Linden, Bruno Pouliot or drawn from the organizational websites or literature linked to in the text.
ASHRAE (American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). 2011. Chapter 23 of ASHRAE Handbook - Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Applications. Atlanta, GA: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
- This is the standard reference for architects and engineers, when it comes to designing systems with appropriate performance for a particular use. Chapter 23, on Museums, Libraries and Archives, describes the target parameters and performance in terms of climate management and airborne pollutants. It also includes an extensive reference list.
BSI (British Standards Institute). 2009. PAS 197:2009: Code of Practice for Cultural Collections Management. London: British Standards Institution.
- Sponsored by the Collections Trust (formerly MDA), this Publicly Available Specification aims to codify a holistic approach to the management of cultural collections by setting out a series of recommendations relating to good practice in the field. It gives recommendations for the management of cultural collections by collecting organizations such as archives, libraries, museums and other public and private collecting organizations that hold cultural collections. PAS 197 covers the provision, implementation and maintenance of a collections management framework, including policies, processes and procedures for:
- collections development
- collections information
- collections access
- collections care and conservation.
- It is applicable to all types and sizes of cultural collections.
BSI (British Standards Institute). 2012. PAS 198:2012: Specification for Managing Environmental Conditions for Cultural Collections. Publicly available specification. London: British Standards Institution.
- PAS 198 breaks new ground by providing a framework for risk based decision making. Its aim is to support collecting organizations in specifying beneficial environmental conditions for the particular objects in their care. Collecting organizations will take into account the sensitivity of the objects in their collections and make their own judgements about the conditions that will help prevent rapid deterioration or irreversible damage. The risk-based framework of the PAS reflects an increasing acceptance of a new approach to setting environmental conditions which allows for a more responsible use of energy. It also reflects research findings that a move is needed away from a prescriptive to an evidence-led approach to environmental management. (Text from BSI press release)
BSI (British Standards Institute). 2012. PD 5454:2012: Guide for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials. London: British Standards Institution.
- PD 5454:2012 gives recommendations for the storage and exhibition of documents, including books and other library materials. These recommendations apply to permanent and temporary storage of documents, and equally apply to material which is subject to restricted access or is on display. The recommendations in PD 5454:2012 have been designed to help create and maintain appropriate conditions for document storage and use, and to enable a repository for archives to be built or converted to a high standard. They can be used where an archive is located in a mixed use development and can also be used as guidance for custodians of collections in historic buildings, defining best practice for archival materials while recognizing that best practice for the conservation of a building might require a compromise, based on a risk assessment. They have been developed to cover the United Kingdom’s common geological and atmospheric conditions.
CEN (European Committee for Standardization). 2010. BS EN 15757:2010: Conservation of Cultural Property- Specifications for Temperature and Relative Humidity to Limit Climate-Induced Mechanical Damage in Organic Hygroscopic Materials. Brussels: European Committee for Standardization.
- This European Standard is a guide specifying temperature and relative humidity levels to limit climate-induced physical damage of hygroscopic, organic materials, kept in long-term storage or exhibition (more than one per year) in indoor environments of museums, galleries, storage areas, archives, libraries, churches and modern or historical buildings.
- In the past 14 years, over 130 institutions from nine countries have participated in the IAMFA Annual Benchmarking Exercise facilitated by Facility Issues. Each year, a steering committee developes a set of questions for an online cost and facility practices survey. The steering committee consists of representatives from museums and cultural institutions across the globe. The online survey is designed to measure performance in key areas of facility management and identify best practices and industry trends.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization). 2015. ISO 11799:2015: Information and documentation - Document storage requirements for archive and library materials. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.
- ISO 11799:2015 specifies the characteristics of repositories used for the long-term storage of archive and library materials. It covers the siting and construction and renovation of the building and the installation and equipment to be used both within and around the building.
National Archives and Records Administration (United States). 2002. Archival Storage Standards, NARA Directive 1571. College Park, MD: National Archives and Records Administration.
- This directive established the internal NARA structural, environmental control, fire safety, preservation, and security standards for appropriate archival storage conditions in NARA archival facilities. Since its release in 2002, “1571” has commonly been used as an operational and design standard for U.S. archival and special collection facilities, particularly regarding the information in Annex A: “Temperature and Relative Humidity Standards for Archival Records.”
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). 2013. NFPA 909: Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties - Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship. Quincy: National Fire Protection Association.
- This code describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (such as museums, libraries, and places of worship), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss. Coverage includes provisions for fire prevention; emergency operations; fire safety management; security; emergency preparedness; and inspection, testing, and maintenance of protection systems. Criteria are also provided for new construction, addition, alteration, renovation, and modification projects, along with specific rules addressing places of worship and museums, libraries, and their collections. (Summary text from http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=909)
NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). 2015. NFPA 914: Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures. Quincy: National Fire Protection Association.
- This code describes principles and practices of fire safety for historic structures and for those who operate, use, or visit them. Criteria cover construction, operational, and occupancy features that are necessary to protect historic structures from fire, while safeguarding the elements, spaces, and features that make these sites historically or architecturally significant.. NFPA 914 also establishes criteria to permit prompt escape of building occupants and to provide for continuity of operations.
National Museum Directors' Conference. 2008. [http: www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/media/documents/what_we_do_documents guiding_principles_reducing_carbon_footprint.pdf Guiding Principles for Reducing Museums' Carbon Footprint].
- NMDC developed a set of guiding principles for rethinking policy and practice with the aim of minimising energy use in 2009. The guidelines were developed in consultation with UK conservators, ICON and the National Trust among others. NMDC members agreed to commit to these guidelines, signalling a move towards a less energy intensive approach to collections care. The guidelines were accepted by the European Bizot Group of major museums at their May 2009 meeting.
Stauderman, S. and W.G. Tomkins, eds. 2016. Proceedings of the Smithsonian Institution Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment.
- Free download of the proceedings of the Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment, held at the Smithsonian Institution in March 2013. The purpose of the summit was to start a conversation over a gap in collections management policy at the Smithsonian and to develop best practices for the management of collection environments.
Sustainable Practice Resources
For additional information on efforts to implement sustainable practices in conservation labs and museums please visit related content on the following pages: Sustainable Practices