Exhibit Lighting Plans

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An exhibit lighting plan, developed during the design stage, is refined and implemented during production and installation. As well as guiding decisions about lighting, it serves as an important maintenance document.

What is an Exhibit Lighting Plan?

An Exhibit Lighting Plan is both a process and a document. The lighting plan begins to take shape during the early planning stages of an exhibit. The exhibit space, exhibit budget, types of display objects chosen, and their conservation criteria are primary issues that impact exhibit lighting. The preliminary lighting plan is based on written requirements for the exhibit that include these issues, as well as energy consumption, maintenance requirements, and aesthetic impact of the lighting.

The lighting plan continues to evolve during the exhibit development phase. Several lighting options may be proposed, and considerable deliberation is necessary to arrive at a lighting scheme that addresses all requirements. Mock-ups of proposed lighting, especially case lighting, allow a scheme to be assessed and adjusted. Final changes to the lighting plan are often made during the production and installation of the exhibit.

Because lighting technology is a particularly complex and rapidly developing field it is recommended that you consult a lighting designer to assist your exhibit team. Select one with experience in designing museum exhibitions and meeting conservation lighting requirements.

What is included in the Exhibit Lighting Plan?

The final lighting plan provides information on the initial criteria established for the exhibit lighting, how these criteria are to be met, the light sources to be used, their location, and what tracks, fixtures, lamps, filters and other lighting control systems are to be employed. The plan should contain enough information to allow the exhibit fabricator to procure and correctly install the lighting systems. It also provides for future maintenance of the exhibit lighting to be carried out in an effective manner. The contents of the final lighting document is dependent on the particulars of each exhibit. The lighting plan addresses both general exhibit lighting and case lighting issues. Sketches, elevations, or other forms of visual identification of lighting locations, beam angle, etc. are important. Types of information that may be included in the plan are listed below:

  • specific requirements for the exhibit lighting, including conservation criteria;
  • placement of light track and individual fixtures;
  • location of other relevant features including HVAC vents, fire suppression and detection equipment;
  • identification of task lighting including maintenance and emergency lights;
  • electrical layout including location of circuits and junction boxes;
  • information on access to all lighting fixtures for installation and maintenance purposes;
  • lamp types with product manufacturer and number;
  • exact location, aim and beam characteristics of each lamp;
  • visible light control methods such as dimmers, diffusers, and filters;
  • measures to prevent UV radiation from light falling on the objects;
  • mitigation techniques for natural light entering the exhibit space;
  • projection of light levels falling on each object;
  • energy consumption projections.

What is a Relamping Schedule?

A Maintenance Manual should include a schedule for relamping the exhibit lighting systems and for replacing any specialized filters.

What information is included in a relamping schedule?

Documentation of the lighting systems, lamp types and any filters or other special lighting features is critical to the maintenance of conservation-appropriate lighting for the exhibit. Lamp wattage and the angle and spread of the beam are three very important variables that must be implemented correctly during relamping. This affects not only the aesthetics of the exhibit but light levels falling on the display objects.

Download the Exhibit Lighting Relamping Schedule Form as an example that can be adapted to suit the particular lighting system used in an exhibit.

4-2 Relamping Schedule Form.jpg