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Conservation Advice - Environmental Monitoring

Why do we need to monitor the museum environment?

The museum environment is something that needs to be monitored and controlled to minimise the deterioration of historic objects. Monitoring the environment:

  • helps ensure the collections are kept in the best possible conditions
  • and should there be a problem with the environment, the record kept from regular monitoring could help us find the source of the problem

The parameters we are concerned with when monitoring the environment are temperature, relative humidity, light (including ultra-violet radiation) and pollution. 

Monitoring involves several stages including;

  • Taking readings and making notes
  • Repeating this regularly
  • Keeping the information so that it is accessible
  • Comparing the data over time
  • Using the information gained by the data in order to make changes where necessary
  • Making the information available to all staff and volunteers

It is important to understand what standards need to be achieved in the museum environment. Different material types require different environmental conditions so it is important to understand the needs of the collection before deciding on the optimum museum environment.

The links below will focus on the specific areas of environmental monitoring:

Light

Temperature and Relative Humidity

Mould

Pollutants

Useful links

Templates for recording spot readings for light and temperature and humidity.

Calibration videos - videos produce by SHARE east museums on how to calibrate a drum thermohygrograph and a dial thermohygrograph (scroll to the bottom of the page).

Monitoring light and UV radiation - Advice Sheet from Museums Galleries Scotland on Monitoring Light and UV Radiation in Museums. Introduces the basics of monitoring light and ultraviolet radiation and describes the available equipment (light meters, ultraviolet meters, combined lux and UV meters, dosimeters, data-loggers, telemetric sensors and hard-wired systems), how to look after it, maintain it and use it to best effect.

Relative Humidity and Temperature Pattern Book - Museums & Galleries Commission guide to understanding and using data on the museum environment such as relative humidity and temperature. Inculdes:

  • RH and Temperature Monitoring Equipment in Museums
  • How to Improve Equipment Reliability and Data Quality
  • Examples of Different Ways of Presenting Data
  • How to Standardise Data Gathering
  • Influences That Can Affect the Readings
  • Graphical Representation of Different Environmental Conditions
  • Using the Psychrometric Chart to Help Interpret Data
  • Examples of Good Data Recording
  • Examples of Poor Data Recording

What is environmental monitoring? - Museums Galleries Scotland's advice sheet on what constitutes environmental monitoring 

Monitoring Temperature and Humidity in Museums - Museums Galleries Scotland's Advice Sheet giving guidance on monitoring temperature and humidity in museums