Guideline 18.2

From Wiki

Back to Main Catalogs Page
Back to Exhibition Standards & Guidelines Table of Contents
Back to complete list of Exhibit Design Phase standards
Back to STANDARD 18: Mitigating Pollutant Hazards


The following Standards and Guidelines are a work in progress intended to spur discussion between exhibit personnel, conservators and other museum professionals. Please check back in the future as information is added to expand on the Guidelines without currently active links.
If you are interested in contributing to or commenting on this text please contact the AIC e-Editor


Guideline 18.2: Exhibit design strategies protect objects from particulates and chemical pollutants

What design strategies help decrease object damage from particulates and chemical pollutants?

Using exhibit cases:

A case provides the optimum level of protection for objects that are susceptible to damage from dust and pollutants.

  • Air filters should be incorporated in ventilated case designs or the exhibit case should be sealed sufficiently to restrict airflow and prevent particulates being drawn inside.
  • Pollutant absorbent materials, such as charcoal or potassium permanganate, can protect sensitive objects from chemical contaminants.

Using object-safe materials in the exhibit:

  • Use materials that are chemically stable and do not offgas in the exhibit area and especially in close proximity to exhibit objects. There are many construction materials and furnishings—for example, plywood, particle board, synthetic carpeting, adhesives and paints—that can bring contaminants and pollutants directly into the exhibit area. Such materials can off-gas corrosive vapors or react with nearby materials. [For more information on object-safe materials see Standard *.]
  • As an extra precaution, isolate objects from direct contact with exhibit construction material, painted or varnished surfaces:
  • Use a chemically neutral layer of film, fabric, or cushioning foam, to separate objects from potentially damaging surfaces, such as paint or varnish. Inert paper, polyethylene, polyester sheeting and foil are acceptable barriers.
  • Elevate objects with mounts.
  • Avoid organic materials or use with extreme caution. Animal products, wool, feathers, fur, vegetal matter, wood, and preserved foods may introduce molds (as well as pests) into the museum.
  • Avoid using dried and friable materials for props and settings. Materials such as thatch, shingles and moss may become brittle, creating dust and debris.
  • Use materials that are clean and sterile for props and settings. Dirty materials can introduce dust and debris that will deposit on objects and recirculate through the HVAC system:
Screen and/or wash materials. For example, wash pebbles and sand to remove fine particles, dirt, and insects.
Use materials free of corrosion.
Do not use old materials in poor condition

[For more information on object-safe props see Guideline *]

Creating an exhibit layout that encourages air circulation:

  • Provide unrestricted airflow for the heating and air-conditioning systems.
  • Provide air space between collections and known pollutant sources since concentrations of pollutants are highest near a contaminant (such as large wooden exhibit panels and platforms).
  • Avoid creating pockets of still air in which pollutant levels can concentrate (for example, long runs of cases that extend from floor to ceiling).

Using structural modifications to help seal the exhibit space and exclude contaminants:

  • Incorporate a vestibule at the exhibit entrance to control airflow. Install grates to capture dirt from visitor’s shoes.
  • Enclose the exhibit area with well-fitting doors.
  • Block unnecessary windows and doors with insulating material.
  • Limit the infiltration of unfiltered air through cracks and gaps in the building by caulking or gasketing doors and windows to reduce particulate pollution.