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Exhibit Expediency: Museum Lighting To Protect Sensitive Artifacts


From art collections to historical archives to scientific displays, every museum strives to protect its artifacts at all costs. Museums go to great lengths to preserve their exhibits from damage, and regularly invest in new equipment and personnel to enhance these efforts. Yet many sources of damage are so subtle that few manage to spot them in time. In particular, UV, heat, and other damage from lights wears away at even the most carefully-guarded collections. Here is some information and advice when considering how to light precious objects in museums or similar applications.

 Fluorescent Lamps

Designed to minimize the amount of energy that is wasted as heat, fluorescent lights are effective at reducing heat damage. Their effects on ultraviolet, or UV, damage are less consistent, and depend on the specific type of fluorescent bulbs you use. Standard fluorescents produce a relatively insignificant amount of UV radiation, although over time they have been known to cause damage to fabrics, painted surfaces, and more due to UV emissions. On average, fluorescent lighting leads to 10 percent less fading than sunlight does, making it unsuitable for most museum applications.

Incandescent & Halogen Lights

You may have simply tried dimming traditional lamps, which usually rely on incandescent or halogen bulbs. Dimming helps to reduce the large amounts of heat that these bulbs emit, making them roughly as effective at preventing damage as fluorescent lights are. But this method also makes museum objects harder to see. In addition, some halogen light bulbs can rupture if not handled properly due to their immense heat. For these reasons, dimmed incandescent or halogen lights may not be the optimal choice as a long-term strategy.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is the best option in most cases. LED’s project virtually no heat outward at the objects they are lighting. Most LED lights are equipped with a heat sink that draws back the heat generated by producing light energy. Additionally LED’s produce virtually no UV radiation due to the phosphors within a LED lamp that convert the Ultraviolet light to white light. LED lighting is bright too. In years past LED lighting might not have been bright enough to properly illuminate what you are displaying, but this is no longer the case. While being super-energy efficient, consuming less power than their counterparts, LED lighting can be equally as bright. LED is available in a variety of color outputs to match almost any design need.

Radiation Filters

Radiation filters block both UV and infrared rays, reducing color fading and heat damage. They can be used to enhance fluorescent and halogen light bulbs, but only up to a point. Fluorescents with UV filters cause 30 percent less color fading than sunlight, while halogen lights with infrared filters cause 10 percent less fading.

As important as it is to avoid fading and discoloration, damage to your exhibits is only the first of many factors you must consider when choosing museum lighting. Your lights must also be clear, bright, and energy-efficient, creating a beautiful and accessible space for your staff and visitors. Light Craft Manufacturing gives you all the information you need to illuminate your museum effectively. To learn more about lighting for sensitive objects and spaces, visit our website today.

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