The Getty Conservation Institute has been involved in environment research since the mid 1980's.
Currently, there is no formal pollution research program.
- The knowledge gained is implemented into new research projects.
- It is known that we cannot consider preservation without considering all environmental factors such as; temperature, light, relative humidity, pollutants and meteorological data for outdoor sites, etc.
When questions arise that we don't understand, it provides an opportunity to conduct more research, e.g., sustainable technologies in hot and humid climates. We will investigate the effectiveness of zeolites for pollutant mitigation. As well as the effect of increasing ventilation to decrease humidity and mould growth, will that increase the risk of damage from outdoor pollutants within museums ?
Do we need qualitative or quantitative data to measure the efficacy of mitigation strategies ?
Blindly investing time, energy and fiscal reserves into mitigation measures is a waste of precious resources.
- Initial test : determine if there is still a problem, what is the extent of the problem, what are the likely sources, and what is the best mitigation strategy ?
- Implement mitigation methodology
- Test again to determine how effective
- Observe again for continued damage
- Test again for long term effectiveness
- Observe regularly as in any preventive conservation protocol for a collection
Many instances when mitigation measures actually made it worse !
What causes the damage ?....
What should we monitor for ?
Detected on Objects:
What about oxidation and breakdown of compounds...
Chemically both reactions are feasible, but is this the issue at hand ? In our labs, visible corrosion or changes to the surfaces of inorganic materials were observed after 100 d exposure to 1.2 ppm (1200 ppb) formaldehyde, T = 20°C, RH = 50 - 55 % (ref : M. Striegel, GCI)
What about higher molecular weight carbonyl compounds ?
Passive sampling devices (PSDs)
- Direct reading, no laboratory analysis required would be great
Damage to collections is a function of an object's composition, its history, pollutant type and concentration, time, relative humidity and temperature.
HIGH concentrations with susceptible objects and long exposure time : potentially an immediate problem
MODERATE concentrations and susceptibility of artefact : may be a problem depending on exposure time.
LOW concentration : assume that risk is low. Damage may occur, but it may be beyond our lifetimes.
Pollutants have been known to lead to the complete destruction of artefacts. The effect is irreversible, thus there are no safe acceptable threshold levels.
Damage can be caused by a number of factors : Biological, pollution, RH, light, temperature, natural disasters, human ignorance and physical factors.
Testing materials : All materials should be tested before use. After construction, 'they say' you should typically let the building off-gas for 9 - 12 months. However, HVAC systems can clean the building galleries within an hour of tours coming through.
Note : Palliative measures do not always eliminate the problem. For example, medite is found to be formaldehyde free, but releases acetic acid and formic acid. Barrier foils significantly reduce pollutant levels, but do not eliminate them. There needs to be effective communication between the sorbent and the display cases. Even baked enamel on steel cabinets was deleterious to lead coupons which were destroyed after only 3 months. The formaldehyde concentration was found to be 3 ppm. These cabinets were not properly cured.
Need to gather information on damage correlations
Understand the susceptibility of materials
Need to consider the levels at which damage occurs
Continue to analyse corrosion products
Understand the role of temperature and relative humidity
Remember that any improvement is valuable.
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© April 25th, 2000