Conservation Blog

Don’t Leave it up to Lux: Lighting Museums and Galleries

April 2011

This event took place at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge on Thursday 10 March. With rapid changes in lighting technology in recent years, NMAS Conservation Department with support from East of England regional colleagues organised this very accessible day. Intended for specialists and non-specialists alike, it was designed to explore both the theoretical and technical complexities of lighting within the museum and gallery sector. With the scene set for the day by Bill Seaman, Assistant Head of Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, the morning session began with a fascinating insight to light and human colour vision from John Mollon, Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Prof Mollon’s paper provided context to Linda Bullock’s introduction of a broader debate into the role that lighting plays in the visitor’s general experience. Stephen Hackney, Senior Consultant for Conservation Science at Tate, provided more detailed analysis of illumination levels whilst Dervilla O’Dwyer, a Consultant Preventive Conservator, gave a captivating look at visitors’ perception of light levels and their tolerance of lower levels with surprising results to her study.

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The afternoon moved on to examine the more practical aspects of lighting with Paul Ruffles, Principal, Lighting Design and Technology, offering us specific examples of how different lighting works within different organisations and institutions such as the relighting of display cases with LED strips. Catriona Morgan then provided us with a case study of how lighting was managed within Manchester Art Gallery and the effects it had had on reducing their Carbon emissions and strengthening their Energy Efficiency grade. The day was rounded off by Linda Bullock, Conservation Advisor to the National Trust, who gave a view into the practicalities of a lighting project and what to think about before and whilst undertaking one.

There was a wide variety of delegates from a range of museums across the country and the diversity of the speakers, their topics and a showcase of companies and products currently on the market gave a good overview of lighting and its uses and challenges within a museum environment.

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