A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL REQUIREMENTS FOR COLLECTIONS IN HISTORIC BUILDINGS
RICHARD L. KERSCHNER
Museum personnel charged with the preservation of collections housed in historic structures should concentrate on improving climate conditions for the artifacts even if the structure dictates less than ideal conditions. Careful evaluation of the environmental requirements of the collection and the thermal and vapor characteristics of the buildings should be conducted by qualified personnel before selecting climate control options. An entire continuum of climate control alternatives exists, from no climate control to complete HVAC system climate control. Between these two extremes, several practical methods have been suggested that should be applicable to climate control problems at many museums housed in historic structures. This study focused on practical climate control methods for museums located in climates similar to the northeastern United States. There are certainly other methods that can be developed for museums in other climates regions. Conservators and engineers specializing in museum environmental control must strive to develop viable, practical alternatives to the “all-or-nothing ” approach. Our collection artifacts and historic structures will benefit from any appreciable reduction of environmental extremes and fluctuations that we may be able to effect.
The author would like to recognize Ernest Conrad, president of Landmark Facilities Group, Inc., of Norwalk, Connecticut for his contribution to the ongoing environmental study and improvement program at Shelburne Museum. Conrad proposed or refined many of the ideas presented in this article in his final environmental survey report, which resulted from a year-long environmental assessment of the museum. The experience of working with him has emphasized the importance of hiring a professional to advise on climate control problems.