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How to Effectively Add Museum Lighting to Improve Art


Lighting adds more than just brilliance to a work of art. The right choice in lighting evokes a visual resonance that can enhance the quality of pieces in a museum. Take the way that lighting historically altered the perception of Abraham Lincoln’s statue at the Lincoln Memorial. If you want to avoid the wrong message with your museum lighting, consider these expert tips for the most desirable positioning, sources, and fixtures.

Temporary Lighting with Intimacy

For an art exhibit that is temporary, you most likely want to avoid installing permanent fixtures and light sources. At the same time, the goal is to accentuate the art so it is in its best light, literally.

 Don’t be afraid to opt for a low wattage light bulb, such as the 12-volt 145 lumens MR16 LED for illuminating single or smaller works of art. By drawing the viewer closer to the artwork for better inspection, it creates the illusion of intimacy. Of course, if you are working with a single large piece of art on temporary display you will need to increase the number of lights to cover the entire work or change to something that covers more area.


Selective Lighting Only

Whereas lighting can bring attention to a work of art, not having any lighting can also be a draw to the eye. Christie’s leading collection experts points out that you want to be selective with lighting. According to Andrew Molyneux, “Some works of art don’t have the same presence as others, or are in a position where lighting them won’t add to the atmosphere in the room as a whole.”

Consider which museum pieces are best suited to illumination. At the same time, use lighting to draw the viewer’s attention to certain works of art. Maybe an exhibit needs a refresh, which can occur quite easily by refocusing the lighting.

Light Beyond the Exhibits

In addition to lighting the works of art, consider how you are going to use lighting to encourage traffic flow. Well-positioned track lighting can easily create the illusion of movement. Opt for ceiling level lighting at the entrance, while using wall-mounted stem lights to bring the focus to the exhibits.

To maintain a cozy feel in a space, utilize floor lighting and table lamps that encourage viewers to hang around for a while. The use of lighting to create movement in the museum gallery works wonders for the overall vibe and atmosphere.

LED Versus Halogen Lighting

Another key decision for museums is whether to move from halogen to LED lighting. Yes, LED lights are more cost effective to operate long term, as well as environmentally friendly, due to the decreased energy usage. However, finding the right lighting balance of today’s LED lights and traditional halogen lighting requires attention to detail.

 As Wired discusses, in addition to being cost-effective, LED lighting is free of heat and UV rays, which are damaging to the paints and hues of artwork. Yet halogen lighting offers a color output that is critical to the integrity of museum exhibits. This type of lamp has historically been the premium choice for getting the accurate spectrum of light for the best clarity of colors.

So what are museum curators to do? Halogen may be the conventional choice. However, for long term museum exhibits or those with an eco-friendly ethos, the move to LED lighting is more desirable. Many LED lighting options are available in a color temperature comparable to Halogen, so achieving the desired lighting effect with LED is possible and often preferable. Working with a professional lighting manufacturer, such as Light Craft Manufacturing, ensures you will be able to get the correct lighting for your needs.

Contact Light Craft Manufacturing today by calling 800-772-3152. We are available to help you make the best decision for your museum lighting needs.


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