Guideline 7.2

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Guideline 7.2:
The conservator evaluates environmental monitoring data taken from the proposed location (and possible alternatives) as part of the assessment.
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Why is it important to collect environmental data from the proposed exhibit locations?

Effective conservation requirements for the exhibit objects rely upon accurate information about the exhibit environment.
The particular environmental conditions in the proposed exhibit space—the range of temperature, relative humidity, and amount of particulate matter in the air—constitute some of the key sources of damage to exhibit objects. By assessing environmental conditions, the conservator will have a clearer picture of the hazards in the exhibit space and the type of damage mitigation that will be required.
Ideally, environmental data will be collected for a year, thus providing a complete picture of the range of environmental conditions that should be anticipated.
Specifically, data on environmental conditions will:
• Provide essential data on the extent of climate hazards (temperature, humidity, and contaminants) from which objects will need protection in the exhibit location.
• Help determine what modifications should be made to the existing heating and air-conditioning systems, and indicate equipment that would allow a more optimal range of temperature and RH.
• Identify the need for additional conservation measures, such as a micro-climatically controlled environment.
• Enable staff to locate more environmentally sensitive objects in areas with the most stable conditions.
• Allow for comparison of environmental conditions in alternative exhibit locations when more than one space is available.

How can the conservator obtain data on air quality conditions in the exhibit space?

Implement an Air Quality Monitoring Program: The most effective way to obtain data on environmental conditions is for museum staff to implement monitoring within the proposed exhibit space. The ambient air quality will depend on local pollution sources and wind direction. And dust generated in the museum will add to the ambient particulate matter. To provide a complete picture of the environment, conditions should be monitored throughout the year.
Obtain regional Air Quality Monitoring information: If a monitoring program is not feasible, climatic conditions in the exhibit space can be estimated by using data from other sources such as government agencies. Consult the following sources:
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides information on the concentrations of outdoor chemical pollutants and particulate matter in the ambient air of a city or region. Use such information to estimate the pollutants that could be present in the exhibit space.
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides annual summaries that will indicate the general climatic patterns in the museum’s geographic region.
• Regional weather and air quality control stations provide data about the amounts of particulate matter in the ambient air of many cities.

How is an Air Quality Monitoring Program implemented?

Concentration of chemical pollutants can be measured by quantity (in parts per million or parts per billion) or by weight (such as micrograms per cubic meter). Recommended permissible levels of pollutants within museum environments vary, but generally fall below 1 part per billion (ppb).
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