Such interesting research is being done at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, housed in our storage facility in Suitland, MD.
Most recently, Smithsonian staff were invited to hear about new research on the acceptable ranges of relative humidity and temperature in museums. Dr. Marion Mecklenburg, a senior research scientist at the Institute presented surprising results (at least for Affiliations staff!) While we all know that there is no single environment that works for everything in our collections, the controversial part came when Dr. Mecklenburg illuminated his results for a work’s ‘yield point’ – the point at which reversible becomes permanent damage. His research revealed alot more leeway in humidity and temperature fluctuations before reaching the yield point than might have previously been thought.
As you can imagine, the question and answer period with conservators from across the Smithsonian was quite lively. One of the most salient points I caught was about aesthetics. Even before the point of permanent damage, stress on a work that leads to any disfiguration, even reversible, can invalidate its aesthetic integrity.
At any rate, if you’re hungry for very rich food for thought, check out the findings: Temp/Humidity research.