Preventive Conservation

The GCI has a long history of research into preventive conservation, determining, both qualitatively and quantitatively, which environmental factors cause deterioration to works of art in collections (as well as to buildings and sites themselves), and the processes by which this can occur. The ultimate goal is to identify environmental improvements that can mitigate, and in some cases prevent, future damage.

For collections, environmental factors causing deterioration include lighting, airborne pollutants, temperature, humidity, shocks and vibrations, and more. Past research has included the investigation of filtered light sources to reduce the overall radiant energy transfer to works of art at a given light level, standardizing the use of microfadeometry in investigating light damage, and the design of oxygen-free, inert gas-filled, hermetically sealed display and storage cases that can protect objects of art from environmental damage, such as microbiological activity and oxidation.

More recent work has focused on improving our understanding of how hygroscopic materials respond to a wider range of temperature and relative humidity conditions, in order to better understand the rate and degree of fluctuation they can withstand. This has become increasingly important to understand against the backdrop of pressure to relax environmental specifications in many museums and collections. Recently, work has also started on evaluating whether nature-based methods can aid preventive conservation of earthen sites.

Current projects include:

Learning From Nature: Nature-based Conservation of Earthen Sites in Drylands
Managing Collection Environments
Museum Lighting Research

Page updated: October 2017