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Thursday, May 29 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Collection Care Session) The LED Revolution: Reevaluating Criteria and Standards for Museum Illumination

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As a result of improvements in technology, LEDs will soon replace traditional electric lighting sources in many applications. The primary drive is economic, due to the high energy efficiency and long life of LEDs. Since the cost of LEDs will continue to drop as performance rapidly improves, the question is not “if” but “when” to make the transition to LEDs. Aside from obvious economic advantages, LEDs potentially offer many options beyond those available with conventional light sources. How can these options be used advantageously in a museum setting where the importance of properly exhibiting objects is balanced by the need to preserve objects and to minimize the risk of light-induced damage?

In order to answer this question, it is useful to consider the meaning of "properly exhibiting" an object from the perspective of the visual experience. Traditionally, the three most important tools used to minimize damage due to illumination were to control the level of visible light, minimize ultraviolet radiation and the rotation of light sensitive materials. Over the last few decades, there have been significant improvements in methods for determining the relative light sensitivity of materials, and in the availability and use of UV monitors and UV filters.

With regard to the control of the level of visible light, the goal has been to maintain an average light level between 50 lux and approximately 200 lux, depending on the relative light sensitivity of the object, a rule that has remained in place for many years. These values are based on the assumption that this is an adequate level of illumination to view a light-sensitive museum artifact and any illumination above this level would cause unjustifiable damage. Is this assumption correct?

Since LEDs offer new tools for the control of color temperature, color rendering, dimming, and unique capabilities for light distribution, the introduction of LEDs provides an important opportunity for reassessing what constitutes an acceptable visual experience and how new technology can improve this experience. One of the most important issues is to more fully understand the visual implications of viewing objects at current conservation approved light levels. It is also essential to take other factors such as color temperature and relative luminance of the surround, to name just two, into account.

The goal of this presentation is to discuss the need for developing a framework for reassessing the "visual experience", based on a variety of criteria, including conservation concerns. Visual examples will be presented to illustrate the significance of various factors that must be taken into account.

avatar for Steven Weintraub

Steven Weintraub

Consultant, Art Preservation Services
Steven Weintraub founded Art Preservation Services in 1988. Steven holds an MA in Art History and an Advanced Certificate in Conservation from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. From 1975 to 1986, he was an objects conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among his many activities... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 2:30pm - 3:00pm PDT
Garden Room