Guidelines for Selecting Solid-State Lighting for Museums

In the early 2000s LED lighting was little more than a hardware store novelty. At the time, one museum lighting specialist noted, LEDs didn't shine; they barely glowed. Coupled with poor color rendering, unknown stability, and unpredictable lifespan it is hard to imagine a less auspicious debut. In the years since, LEDs have evolved to begin taking a respected place in museum displays.
As with any paradigm shift, these changes come with uncertainty and many questions. Facilities managers are attracted by the claims of energy efficiency yet ask, given the cost per lamp, is cost recovery realistic. Conservators are resistant to exposing the most sensitive artifacts to new light sources. Curators wonder if the color quality of LEDs is up to the task of communicating an aesthetic message as well as daylight or incandescent lighting has done for almost a century.

In answer to these questions, the GCI is pleased to make available, Guidelines for Selecting Solid-State Lighting for Museums.
Written by James Druzik, GCI Senior Scientist and Stefan Michalski, Senior Conservation Scientist, Canadian Conservation Institute, Guidelines compares LEDs to traditional lighting and points readers to high-quality Department of Energy resources for further information. It not only discusses lighting efficacy, lifespan, lumen maintenance, color rendering, cost and payback, but it is the only publication that includes warranty coverage.

For a full set of museum case studies and other lighting resources please go to the U.S. Department of Energy's GATEWAY demonstration museum reports page.

In June 2014, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conducted a survey of museums on behalf of Department of Energy, the GCI and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). The survey results and recommendations, LED Adoption by Museums: Survey Results and Recommendations are available from the Department of Energy.

More information on light, ultraviolet, and infrared as agents of deterioration can be found on the Canadian Conservation Institute's website.

Page updated: August 2019