The focus of this project was the economical and sustainable application of techniques previously developed by the GCI to prevent fungal and bacterial attacks through improvement of the physical environment of collections in historic buildings in hot and humid regions. The Alternative Climate Controls project applied alternative strategies to conventional air-conditioning systems by controlling relative humidity through ventilation and heating or dehumidification.
The project had five components, each focused on a particular location where project partners are applying controlled ventilation and heating or dehumidification as climate control strategies:
- Hollybourne Cottage, an historic house within the Jekyll Island Historic District (Georgia, USA);
- Valle de Guerra, a museum storage facility of Autonomous Entity of Museums and Centers of the Island Government of Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain);
- Emilio Goeldi Museum, a storage facility for the Amazonian Ethnographic collection (Belém, Para, Brazil);
- Casa de Rui Barbosa, a house museum dedicated to the life of Rui Barbosa (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil);
- Juanqinzhai, Quinlong Garden Complex, Forbidden City, an eighteenth-century lodge of retirement for the Qianlong Emperor (Beijing, China).
Biodeterioration has been a major threat to museum collections in hot and humid regions; this is a result of exposure to prolonged periods of elevated relative humidity. Although air-conditioning may be used to lower relative humidity in the collection space, excessive cost and intrusion to the fabric of historic structures are prohibitive factors in its installation. Field studies at Tenerife Island, Spain, and Jekyll Island, Georgia—initiated by the GCI in 1997 and completed in 2002—examined the use of humidistat-controlled ventilation and heating as a viable alternative to air-conditioning in maintaining preservation-level relative humidity in the collection space.
Results from these multiyear experiments quantified the efficacy of economically sustainable strategies and produced ventilating and heating requirements for the care of collections in historic buildings located in tropical and subtropical regions. These studies demonstrated an impressive capability to improve climates with systems that, relative to air-conditioning, are inexpensive and simple to install, operate, and maintain.
In 2003, the GCI launched the Alternative Climate Controls for Historic Buildings project to apply the techniques developed through the field studies undertaken in the Collections in Hot & Humid Environments project (1997–2002) in a way that was both economical and sustainable. Concurrent with continued experiments on additional variations of climate control strategies at Hollybourne Cottage (first undertaken in the Hot & Humid project), a number of past and present partners worked with the GCI to install alternative climate control systems in their facilities, including the Valle de Guerra museum storage facility in Tenerife, Spain; the Emilio Goeldi Museum in Belem, Brazil; the library of the Casa de Rui Barbosa Museum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Juanqinzhai, the Quinlong Garden Complex in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
These projects were supported through the use of local resources, which included funding for equipment and the hiring of local engineers, architects, and contractors. The GCI provided technical support during the design and installation of these systems, as well as performance monitoring and suggestions for improvement to these projects.
In April 2007, the GCI invited thirteen experts—architects, engineers, conservators, and conservation scientists with an established record of work in the fields of environmental research, management, or control—to a two-day roundtable in Tenerife, Spain. The objectives of this event, the Experts' Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies, were to exchange knowledge and experiences, to identify areas in need of further study or new research, and to identify opportunities for education and training in this subject. Excerpts from the roundtable discussion, as well as discussion papers written for the event, are available.
During the course of the project, the project team disseminated their work through numerous conference presentations, workshop lectures, and publications. Information on these can be found on the Related Materials page. A publication integrating all research and implementation case studies is forthcoming from Getty Publications in 2013.
Last updated: December 2010