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Growing demand for HVACR and FM specialists trained in museum environments

UCLA expert says there is a gap for stakeholders to fill advisory roles in museums, libraries and archives

| | Nov 22, 2018 | 11:06 am
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Dubai, UAE, 22 November 2018: There is a growing demand for HVACR and FM specialists armed with the necessary training and knowledge to design and operate museums, archives and libraries. These institutions have unique and specialised requirements with regard to temperature and relative humidity, both of which must be controlled to ensure the preservation of priceless cultural objects and artworks. Ellen Pearlstein, Professor, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)/Getty Program in the Conservation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Materials, UCLA Information Studies, said that while museums in large urban centers, with specialists in this field, may take up advisory roles in other locations, there is a general lack of specialists for museums outside major urban areas. Sustainability, Pearlstein said, is a very important aspect when taking into account climate control or HVAC in museums, libraries and archives, “because there’s also always the thought of whether or not [there is available] in-house expertise or resources to maintain equipment, which is really important”.

Pearlstein said that in line with this, she teaches students who are going to be conservators of museum or library collections on how to work with facilities people in circumstances where there aren’t a lot of resources, but installing an expensive and hard-to-maintain piece of equipment is required. “We did a case study in a LEED certified building that did not try to tightly restrict the climate because they got points for LEED certification,” she said, providing an example, “very much more in mind by those of us that work with museum climate and collection climate.”

To provide a quick overview regarding best practice with regard to maintaining the museum environment, Pearlstein said that, in general, cooler temperature slows down chemical change in collection, and that relative humidity has been the focus of much research in the past 25 years. Pearlstein said there are three main considerations that must be taken into account. The first, she said, is the location of the museum, the ambient relative humidity of the region and the typical relative humidity. The second, she said, is what the collections are made of. The third, she said, emphasises that a gradual change in relative humidity is more important than a particular relative humidity and the main thing to avoid is rapid change in this regard.


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com

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