Environmental management in the context of an art museum or gallery refers to controlling the temperature, humidity, lighting, noxious gases, and pests that can have harmful impact on the collection. Because artworks are made of numerous materials and produced using various techniques, it is of utmost importance to adapt the environmental conditions according to the material, structure and condition of the works displayed or in storage.
The temperature for exhibition and storage of artworks should be maintained at an optimum temperature range of 18~25°C, provided that +/-3°C fluctuations within 24 hours are permitted. The relative humidity should be kept between 45~55%, with allowance of +/-5% changes within 24 hours. During the period between seasons, when the temperature and relative humidity fluctuations are pronounced, the permissible range for relative humidity should be broadened to 40~60%, while making sure to prevent rapid changes.
UV rays present in sunlight and other types of light sources are characterized by high energy. Due to its high energy, UV rays can destroy or disfigure molecules such as proteins as well as pigments, dyes and cellulose, and may, therefore, cause damage to artworks. For this reason, the light sources installed in exhibition halls should not emit any UV rays, and the intensity should also be controlled to be tolerable for the materials on display.
Exposure to noxious gases such as hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, ammonia, and formaldehyde that are present in concentrations higher than the threshold value can cause substantial damage to artworks. The degree of damage caused by gaseous pollutants varies depending on the type of gas and material of the work of art. Of particular note, gaseous pollutants cause discoloration of fabric, pigments and dyes, and can promote corrosion of metal materials. Accordingly, it is sometimes necessary to store or install artworks inside a showcase to avoid having the works come in direct contact with the gaseous pollutants. Additionally, tests should be performed to confirm that the materials used in showcases will not harm the works of art to be placed inside.
Integrated pest management is a preventive method that involves monitoring spaces of a museum and its premises to prohibit insects from infiltrating and forming colonies. Insect catchers are installed indoors, and the number and types of insects that are caught, together with the time, period and location in which they were captured, are analyzed as a way to determine their characteristics and route of infiltration and movement. Based on the results of the analysis, more efficient anti-pest measures are established.
Artworks are examined prior to their installation for an exhibition. The examination process includes checking for whether the work can be installed and maintained safely for a certain period of time. Detailed records of the conditions of the work are required in case any unexpected changes might occur during the exhibition period. In some instances, thorough and careful examinations are conducted with a representative of the lending organization.
Artworks are installed by a skilled professional who has vast experience and sufficient understanding of the structure and production techniques related to the work in question. This way, unexpected accidents during the handling process can be prevented.
Artworks can become depositories for airborne particles in museums and are also exposed to visitors eager to touch and leave their fingermarks. Dust and fingerprints are cleaned regularly in order to remove potential damaging factors and to improve viewing conditions. The humidity level inside the showcases is maintained using humidity stabilizers to ensure optimum conditions for materials on display.