In the Dark: Shining Light on the Effects of Illumination on Museum Collections
Have you ever visited The Museum hoping to see your favorite item in the galleries, only to find that it has been replaced by something else from the collection? Have you wondered why the galleries are so dark? Did you know that only a fraction of The Museum’s collection is on display? These questions can be answered with an explanation of the damaging effects of light and the proactive measures that are being taken to protect our collection.
In this image, you can see two wool bags side by side, both created by the Montagnais people of Canada around the year 1900. Both began as the same vibrant, deep purple dyed wool with red cotton details and bright embroidery, as exemplified by the pouch on the left. The pouch on the right has been the victim of too much of light exposure. Lifting the flap to uncover the fabric that has been shielded from light reveals how far the fading has progressed.
A large portion of the Reading Public Museum’s collection is at any given time stored away in dark, secure, temperature and humidity controlled rooms while it ‘rests’ from the damaging effects that displaying it can have. In responsibly caring for the collection, resting items is just as important as exhibiting and interpreting them. With extensive collections in storage, we have the luxury of rotating susceptible materials such as textiles and works on paper in and out of galleries to prevent permanent damage.
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