Controlling the exhibition environment
As no matter/energy system is completely stable, the interaction of all the parts forms a constant state of action versus reaction. The conservation mission of a museum requires that such interactions be kept to a minimum. This means controlling the factors that promote interaction. In exhibitions, the environment of the presented objects needs to be understood as clearly as possible. The reason is a basic museological principle: the ethical and professional standard that collection objects must be cared for in a manner so as to preserve them for the foreseeable future. To provide adequate care for objects while on exhibit, environmental factors must be controlled as precisely as possible. The main factors to consider are: • temperature • relative humidity (RH) • particulate matter and pollutants • biological organisms • reactivity of materials • light
These are of primary concern in all collection management activities, of which exhibitions is one. In any system of matter and energy, the only achievable goal is to slow down the natural destruction of objects. By prioritizing collection management activities based upon the potential for harm, the process of decay can be slowed down dramatically. Some of these exhibition concerns went unrecognized or ignored until a few years ago. New problems and solutions are becoming known as research in collection care is done. Staying abreast of the literature is more and more important for proper collection management-and more difficult.