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Written by Mickie McCormick In deciding on levels of illumination in galleries, the primary consideration is the light sensitivity of the objects to be displayed. If the objects to be shown are light-sensitive, the two most important factors are the intensity of the light and whether or not ultraviolet (UV) rays are present. Neither of these factors can be judged merely by observation. It is not possible to rely upon eyesight to give accurate information about light intensity because eyes adapt to changing light conditions too efficiently. The amount of ultraviolet radiation cannot be judged by eye because that part of the spectrum cannot be seen. Accurate information about both of these factors can only be determined by instruments. Since ultraviolet radiation must be avoided completely, it is easier to deal with that problem than it is to deal with the problem of light intensity, which is a matter of judging relative amounts and balancing variables. Ultraviolet radiation is very destructive to all organic materials. However, since UV radiation is found primarily in daylight and in fluorescent lights, we can protect objects on display simply by shielding them from those light sources. Incandescent lighting, which has virtually no UV component, is preferred for gallery spaces. If daylight or fluorescent lights are present in galleries, ultraviolet filters must be used on the windows or lighting fixtures. UV filters usually have little effect on the visible light coming through them. Although it is treated separately in this technical note, lighting is only one of the environmental factors that must be taken into consideration. Temperature and relative humidity are vital factors that interact with lighting concerns.
Units of Measurement
The two common units of light measurement are the "lux" and the "footcandle." Both units are used in literature on gallery lighting. A footcandle represents more illumination than a lux. The relationship is 1 footcandle = 10.76 lux.
Recommended Light Levels
5 to 10 footcandles (approx. 50 to 100 lux) is currently considered to be the maximum allowable light level for very sensitive materials, such as prints, drawings, watercolors, dyed fabrics, manuscripts, and botanical specimens. Up to 15 footcandles (approx. 150 lux) is thought to be appropriate for oil paintings, most photographs, ivory, wood and lacquer objects. Metal, stone, glass, ceramic, and enamel objects are generally thought to be unaffected by strong light. However, heat from lighting fixtures may seriously affect objects, even those that are not susceptible to light damage. Fixtures must allow heat to dissipate through the rear. These broad guidelines are intended to be conservative enough to preserve most art objects from severe light damage while on display. They are especially helpful in determining how to light temporary exhibitions. However, they do not take into account factors which might determine the acceptable light level for any individual work, such as particular pigments or media that are either especially lightsensitive or not sensitive at all. We recommend that you do research on the media used, and consult a conservator for advice on specific works in your permanent collection. Information can often be obtained from artists about their palettes; many paints used today are considered light-fast, and greater levels of illumination are therefore appropriate for them.
Measuring Fading There are inexpensive 'fadometer' cards which use standardized swatches of blue wool to measure fading. and set the shutter speed at 1/60 of a second. 1. ideally. It requires a 35mm single lens reflex camera with a built-in light meter. installing visitor-activated light switches.6 indicates100 lux or 9. using movement detectors to turn on lights automatically when someone approaches. Adjust the aperture setting until the camera's light meter shows a correct exposure. The only way to completely protect light-sensitive objects from damage is to keep them in the dark. With a camera light meter: The method recommended by the Canadian Conservation Institute measures reflected light. 2. These can be used to monitor gallery conditions.) . and although it varies with the object.3 footcandles f8 indicates 200 lux or 18. The following chart shows how the f-stop reading relates to lux and footcandles: f4 indicates 50 lux or 4. so that informed decisions can be made about displaying them.3 footcandles The results of this method are not as accurate as those of a lux or footcandle meter. They will measure either the light from the source (incident light) or the light reflected from the object. and a white card measuring 12" by 16". and yet produce as little light damage as possible. either during exhibitions or. the only way to control the amount of light damage is to adjust the level of intensity and/or to limit the length of time on display.Measuring Light Intensity With a Footcandle Meter or a Lux Meter: Light meters that convert the reading directly to footcandles or lux can be ordered (see Sources).turning off gallery lights when no viewers are present. Measuring Ultraviolet Radiation A meter for measuring ultraviolet radiation is rather expensive. but also to calculate the variations that would result from changing one or both factors . Follow the manufacturer's instructions. borrowing or renting one from a major museum or service organization is an alternative to purchasing.) There are many mechanical means that may be used to reduce the duration of light exposure . every exposure to light is to some extent damaging. Position the camera so that the card just fills the view screen. Have someone hold the white card in front of the art work and at the same angle as the art work. 4. The Canadian Conservation Institute has produced a "Light Damage Slide Rule" which makes it possible not only to calculate light damage to an object ahead of time. (See Sources.6 footcandles f5. but we found them to be within 3 footcandles of the footcandle meter reading. Since it is used primarily to check UV filters when first installed. Accurate records of light exposure must be part of the permanent records for light-sensitive objects.6 footcandles f11 indicates 400 lux or 37. Rotating works on permanent display is often necessary. or using cloth covers on display cases that stand in lighted areas. Once the decision has been made to display an object. Set the camera film-speed reading at 800 ASA.intensity and duration. 3. (See Sources. before art objects are installed. a useful guideline is three months per year on display under controlled lighting conditions. Controlling Light Damage We want to find a level of lighting that will make it possible for visitors to see the objects well.2 footcandles f16 indicates 800 lux or 74.
_____. Lafontaine." CCI Notes 2/2. Francis W. 1995. Transport. 2nd. 1989. Available from Minolta.: American Association of Museums. no.) Extech Instruments sells three different light meters of differing cost and quality. _____.minoltausa. Available from Gaylord Archival. Doloff.com Other supplies: "Light Damage Slide Rule" produced by the Canadian Conservation Instutite. Nathan. Robert L. "Track Lighting. (800) 282-0073. Margaret Holben. 2. Available from Zefon International.com/instruments/LightMeters/t10intro. http:// www.clubfree. 3rd revised ed.Sources Lux or Footcandle Meters: (Be sure to get a meter that will read clearly down to 5 footcandles or 50 lux. May/June. Art Galleries and Archives. Stolow. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press. 1982. Macleod.. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute. _____. model T-10. Curatorial Care of Works of Art on Paper. 1981. Thomson. Clapp. Toronto: 1985. London: Butterworths.com/· UV Fluorescent light filters and window filtering film. The Museum Environment.J. _____. R. Available from University Products. Museum Lighting. D. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute. Evan. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute. http://www. Ellis. 1983. "Control of Deteriorating Effects of Light Upon Museum Objects. CCI Technical Bulletin #3. 1983. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute. (818) 954-9222. Feller. Environmental Norms for Canadian Museums. Available from Spectra Cine Corp. Garry. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute." Museum News.H. 1987. Anne F. "CCI Environmental Monitoring Kit. Museum and Archival Supplies Handbook. Perkinson.com/spectra/candela/UV Meters Crawford UV Monitor Type 763." Museum.gaylord. http:// www. Available from University Products. Ontario Museum Association and Toronto Area Archivists Group. Archives and Art Galleries. revised edition. New York: Nick Lyons Books. Roth. London: Butterworth-Heinemann. Conservation and Exhibitions: Packing. vol.com/ Bibliography Canadian Conservation Institute. . UNESCO." CCI Notes 2/1.com/ analytical/measure/light/ Light meter from University Products. Washington.asp Spectra Candela model II and II-A meters. Recommended Environmental Monitors for Museums.C." CCI Notes 2/4. http://www. http://www. (800) 448-6160. (800) 6281912. ed. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute. K. The Care of Prints and Drawings. 1994. Boston: Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Available from Gaylord Arhival (see above) and University Products. Storage and Environmental Consideration. "Museum Lighting: Illumination Hangs in the Balance. (888) 473-2656.archivalsuppliers.archivalsuppliers. (800) 628-1912.archivalsuppliers. How to Care for Works of Art on Paper. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute.archivalsuppliers.com Minolta sells a high end light meter." CCI Notes 2/3.com Textile Fading Cards. http://www. "Ultraviolet Filters for Fluorescent Lamps. 1983. CCI Technical Bulletin #4.zefon. 1983. 1979. 1964. 17. 1987. http://ww. and Roy L. "Daylight Fluro-Spray Floodlight. http:// www. 3rd ed. CCI Technical Bulletin #5.
Hamilton. in part.exhibitionalliance. All rights reserved. and Hanna Szczepanowska. Environment and Deterioration Research. Division for Historic Preservation. Bureau of Historic Sites. Senior Conservation Scientist. Peebles Island.. Canadian Conservation Institute. Inc.Y. Revised 2001. N. by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts. NY 13346 (315) 824-2510 www. Box 345 Hamilton. call or write: The Exhibition Alliance P. © 1990 by The Exhibition Alliance.org . Paper Conservator. This publication is made possible.O. For more information.The Exhibition Alliance thanks the following for reviewing a draft of this technical note and making suggestions: Stefan Michalski.
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