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Thread: Lighting in Gallery Cases

  1. #1

    Lighting in Gallery Cases

    Hello, all!

    I was wondering if anyone has any pointers about what kind of lighting would be best in museum display cases. We are a new museum that will be handling Civil War artifacts, and we are having our display cases custom made. We would like to light from the inside. I know lighting levels and UV are all important factors to think about, but we were hoping to get some information about the newest lighting trends in museums and the most efficient. Tips, links to websites, experiences, and book references would be all be appreciated!

    Alex Choate

  2. #2
    PACCIN Advisory Committee Member T. Ashley McGrew's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    San Francisco, CA
    Please find below some related activity from the PACCIN listserve on the topic.

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    Hi Dale,
    Thanks for the update. Seems like a good time to point out that this topic will be one of several dealing with technology and the "Greening" of the museum workplace that will be presented at the Preparators Conference to be held April 13, 14 and 15 2012 in the [COLOR= ]Los Angeles area.[/COLOR]

    The first two days will be held at [COLOR= ]the Getty Villa Museum and I understand Jim has agreed to bring attendees up to date on LED research then. If I were trying to make up a catchy title you could call it "Are we there yet; Developments the Fine Art of illuminating Fine Art and Artifacts" or something like that.[/COLOR]

    As for me - a decided non-expert - when it comes to lighting products I feel obligated to take the same approach that I would with matt board or foam or whatever. If cultural property in my care is going to have contact with a material that may have potential to cause harm, before I purchase it, I want to have at least three questions answered.

    What specific product are we talking about? (General theory or blanket claims don't cut it).

    Who is using it? (I want to know someone with some "cred" is already using it and I don't want to "learn on the job using my collection").

    And finally who has actually tested it and then verified the results?

    Until I hear the answers to those questions I would be reluctant expend the limited resources of an institution that I work for or with on any major purchase.

    Of course the exciting thing about this point in time is that as LED is finding its way into museums the answers are being put together more completely each day.
    I have heard about some really great results museums are getting out there and I am really happy to know that "due diligence" is being exercised in this important area.

    Another important area of the work that requires some clarification it seems are materials and methods for safe display case fabrication. Another great topic being covered at the prep conference. I will put out an announcement when registration for this important event will be open. Keep your eyes peeled for details on this list serve and on the PACCIN website.
    Best regards,


    From: Dale Kronkright
    Sent: Wed, August 3, 2011 9:30:44 AM
    Subject: Re: Lighting in Gallery Cases

    The Getty Conservation Institute and the Canadian Conservation Institute, via Jim Druzik and Stefan Michalski, are in final edits of a new publication following Getty's extensive, multi-year testing of numerous white solid state (LED) sources and the effects of their various emission spectra on light sensitive museum materials. I have read the draft materials and the results clarify that while a small number of LED sources have refined their phosphors and emission spectra to do no more damage the properly filtered incandescent sources, many LED sources pose damage risks for light sensitive materials. Moreover, it is clear that some phosphors in LED white light sources deteriorate after exposure to the units own circuit heat and lose their color balance and initial spectral output rapidly during the life of the LED lamp. I advise all who are considering the use of LEDs for museum exhibition lighting to await the publication of this thorough and well organized publication.
    Dale Kronkright
    Head of Conservation
    Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and Research Center
    217 Johnson Street
    Santa Fe, NM. 87501

    From: Bruce MacLeish
    Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:13 AM
    To: PACCIN ListServe <>
    Subject: RE: Lighting in Gallery Cases

    The issues surrounding LED lighting in museums has been extensively discussed on the RCAAM listserve. A number of conservators in different countries have explained their research, indicating that the LEDs they tested are indeed safe to use in illuminating museum collections. If you are unable to locate the information through RCAAM, I can try to round it up and send it out through PACCIN.

    A. Bruce MacLeish
    Director of Collections
    Newport Restoration Foundation
    51 Touro Street
    Newport, RI 02840

    From: Mary Nicolett
    Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 10:45 AM
    To: PACCIN ListServe
    Subject: RE: Lighting in Gallery Cases

    I cannot place the article at the moment, but the Getty Research institute had done some research on LED lights and found that some textile colors faded more rapidly under LED light. So, if the Civil War artifacts include uniforms or other textiles, that issue may be of concern.

    Of course, if any of you have heard of further research about this color fading issue, please let me know!

    It sounds like Cleveland has all the new-fangled toys!

    Mary Nicolett
    Preparator, Logistics Facilitator
    Dallas Museum of Art
    1717 N. Harwood
    Dallas, TX 75201

    From: Mark Gamiere []
    Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 7:48 AM
    To: PACCIN ListServe
    Subject: Re: Lighting in Gallery Cases

    Here, at the Cleveland Museum of Art, we have many showcases and we use a Roblon system to light most of them. Here is a link to their catalog if you are interested:

    The Roblon light generator uses a 150Watt Philips bulb and gives an ample amount of light to illuminate any object. It also has a UV filter built in and room for a Kelvin temperature filter to adjust "warmness" or "coolness" to your liking.

    If you want to use an LED system, Schott makes an excellent light generator. Here is a link to their website as well:

    We have tested two of their light generators, one built for 4400k@100 Watts and the other for 3000k@96 Watts. They are not as bright as the Roblon system but are very, very close. They both look excellent and can be used to light a variety of objects.

    We do have some cases that we still use MR-16's with. One way to do it is to use a 12 Volt transformer and wire up a harness to feed as many bulbs as you might use in that case. For example, I fitted one of our cases with a 1000 Watt 12 Volt transformer that powers 14 - 20 Watt MR-16 bulbs. I am only using 280 Watts of the transformer with the bulbs which leaves me room to either add more bulbs or up the wattage of the bulbs to suit the objects inside the case should things change.

    Another way is to install a light track inside the case and place it with fixtures above a frosted plexi or glass. You won't be able to get as much pin spotting with this method, but you can smoothly flood the case with light and illuminate it to your liking.

    I hope that this helps.

    Mark Gamiere

    Exhibition Lighting

    The Cleveland Museum of Art

    T. Ashley McGrew
    PACCIN Advisory Committee member

  3. #3
    Some stronger spots (white light) for clarity and led lights to make things interesting.

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