The NGA in Canberra has a complex and aging HVAC infrastructure installed when the building was opened in 1982. This air conditioning system is required to maintain standard temperatures and relative humidities despite considerable diurnal and annual climate variations. The building itself has had several problems that also affect air quality, including extensive roof membrane leakage, condensation and dust problems that were related to the use of bush-hammered concrete for internal walls.
Over the past two years serious accusations have been made by former staff concerning the use of hydrogen peroxide as a sterilising agent for humidifiers, growths of microrganisms in ducts and cooling towers and that the air quality is causing damage to the collections. These accusations were made in Parliament and in the media and considerable adverse publicity was created throughout Australia.
Following questioning in the Senate and consultation with trade union representatives, an inquiry was conducted with an independent engineering consultant. A review is given of the development of the investigation conducted to examine the HVAC and air quality issues and the interactions between the consultant and museum staff, especially conservators, to ensure that appropriate attention was given to the various concerns raised. The enquiry raised numerous questions relating to standards for air quality in museums. These are discussed in presenting an overview of the results of the investigation and ongoing maintenance and improvement of HVAC infrastructure at NGA.
National Gallery of Australia
GPO Box 1150
Canberra ACT 2600
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© February 12th, 2002