AN ECONOMICAL DESIGN FOR A MICROCLIMATE VITRINE FOR PAINTINGS USING THE PICTURE FRAME AS THE PRIMARY HOUSING
LAURENT S. G. SOZZANI
1. This design concept is predated in an English patent of W. S. Simpson (1892). (Hackney  refers to a J.M.W. Turner painting in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum that has never been removed from a Simpson box and appears to this day to be in good condition.) Sack and Stolow (1978) also established the overall viability of a similar design in their testing and application to a Fayum portrait.
2. This design was recognized as follows: De Ideeëncommissie van het Ministerie van Welzijn, Volksgezondheid en Cultuur heeft een beloning toegekend aan de heer L.S.G. Sozzani voor een idee inzake klimaatdozen, in de lijst geplaatst. 10 maart 1993 (The Idea Commision of the Ministry of Welfare, Health, and Culture awards to Laurent Sozzani a prize for the idea of a climate box in the picture's frame. March 10, 1993).
3. Centraal Laboratorium voor Onderzoek van Voorwerpen van Kunst en Wetenschap, Gabriël Metsustraat 8, 1071 EA Amsterdam.
4. The vitrines were assembled as follows: Aluminum frame design: (1) empty; (2) with oak panel only; (3) with silica gel only; (4) with oak panel and silica gel. Wooden frame design; (5) empty; (6) with oak panel and silica gel; (7) with oak panel only (after week 10).
5. Weeks 11 to 17 included the addition of direct illumination of the vitrines and/or cooling of the wall behind the vitrines. Illumination to 450 lux using either tungsten or halogen lamps produced no more than a 3°C increase within any vitrine. Cooling the wall to 10°C lower than the room temperature had even less effect on internal temperatures.
6. Richard (1994) refers to the temperature-induced expansion and contraction of wooden panels. In a personal communication (1996) he emphasized that at elevated temperature, expansion of a wood panel can counteract contraction due to moisture loss, and vice versa at lower temperatures, even if the changes are accentuated by the activity of silica gel. He does not recommend removing silica gel but prefers it as a safety factor in case of a leaking vitrine. He does concede that the overall effect of silica gel in a well-sealed vitrine with little air volume is so minimal that its presence or removal is of little consequence. Richard also warns that the improper conditioning of silica gel in a vitrine constitutes an additional drawback in its use.
7. Simplified by Jorgen Wadum for the Research Program Microclimates Group using the approximate volumes and weights of the vitrines and panels used in the research program.
8. Richard (1991) and Saunders et al. (1991) confirm and utilize this concept in their packing procedures.
9. Collaborative research by G. Di Pietro, J. Wadum, IJ. Hummelen, W. Kragt, B.A.H.G. Jütte, L. Sozzani, and A. Brokerhof on microclimates, specifically backing boards, is in progress (1995–97) at the Central Research Laboratory, Amsterdam.
10. Stolow (1967) warns of the extreme differences in air pressure and temperature encountered during air transport and the need for controlled cabin pressure and temperature when shipping sealed vitrines. These conditions are especially important with an airtight case to prevent the breaking of seals. Toishi and Gotoh (1994) further warn that at a sustained low temperature encountered on a flight, the drop in RH within a sealed package can cause moisture to migrate from a minor hygroscopic component in an artwork (i.e., gouache) to a major hygroscopic component (i.e., wood), resulting in desiccation of the minor component (irreversible in their example). These warnings emphasize the importance of providing thermal insulation to some packing cases.
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LAURENT S. G. SOZZANI graduated from the Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 1984. From 1984 to 1986 he worked with Perry Huston and Associates in Fort Worth, Texas, and from 1986 to 1989 he was a Fellow in the Paintings Restoration Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has been a paintings restorer at the Rijksmuseum since 1990. Address: Rijksmuseum, Postbus 74888, 1070 DN Amsterdam, The Netherlands.