Airborne Particles in Museums

William W. Nazaroff, Mary P. Ligocki, Lynn G. Salmon, Glen R. Cass, Theresa Fall, Michael C. Jones, Harvey I. H. Liu, and Timothy Ma


148 pages

PDF file size: 1.0 MB


This study represents the latest in a series of research activities aimed at a better understanding of the origin and fate of air pollution within the built environment.

Most previous studies of air pollution in cultural institutions have focused on gases. Particles were ignored for many reasons: they seemed to be more easily removed by the building; gaseous air pollutants had been well studied by industry, and their effects on commercial products were heavily documented; and many particle types were considered chemically benign to almost all surfaces. Even carbon black, which is now known to pose enormous degradation risks to the optical and color qualities of paintings and tapestries, is almost totally inert. Recognizing this, and understanding that we needed to know much more about the physics of particle intrusion in museum buildings, in 1987 the Environmental Engineering Lab at the California Institute of Technology, under contract to the Getty Conservation Institute, began a detailed examination of five different museums in Southern California. These structures represent a diverse range of architectural and ventilation types. Through this study a powerful computer model was developed that could predict the soiling effects of changes made to the operation or maintenance of a building. This model can even be used to estimate the soiling rates of new buildings or major rehabilitations before any construction work is begun. This is an important contribution to both the conservation community and the broader field of air quality science.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    James R. Druzik
  • Soiling Due to Airborne Particles
  • Characteristics of Airborne Particles Inside Southern California Museums
  • Mathematical Modeling of Indoor Airborne Particle Dynamics
  • Concentration and Fate of Airborne Particles in Museums
  • Measurements of the Rates of Soiling Inside Museums Due to Deposition of Airborne Particles
  • Protecting Museum Collections from Soiling Due to Deposition of Airborne Particles
  • References
  • Index

About the Authors

William W. Nazaroff is associate professor of Civil Engineering, University of California at Berkeley. He is interested in the experimental and theoretical aspects of indoor air quality, including the behavior of small particles, photo-oxidants, and control ofradon exposure indoors.

Mary P. Ligocki is a senior scientist at Systems Applications in San Rafael, California, and is engaged in air pollution research.

Lynn G. Salmon is a research engineer at the Environmental Engineering Science Department, California Institute of Technology, where she works on problems of protection of cultural properties from damage due to environmental conditions.

Glen R. Cass is presently professor of Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. His research interests center on control of air pollution problems, including the problem of protection of works of art from damage due to atmospheric particulate matter.

Theresa Fall is a staff geologist at Woodward Clyde Consultants in Phoenix, Arizona.

Michael C. Jones is a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Harvey I. H. Liu is a graduate student at Stanford University.

Timothy Ma is a design engineer at VLSI Technology Inc. in Encino, California.