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Gallery and Museum Lighting

Gallery and Museum Lighting

Art is in the eye of the beholder, but without accurate lighting the beholder may miss the brushstrokes. Whether it’s a small scale gallery or a full-size museum, appropriate lighting ensures artwork is seen at its fullest enchantment.  Just recently, Michelangelo’s painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was updated using 7,000 LEDs. The ceiling was fading from sunlight exposure, and standard halogen lighting. With the switch to LEDs, this classic work of art is being seen in a completely different light.  So, if you’ve been considering changing the lighting in your gallery or museum, here are a few reasons to move towards LEDs.

 Museums and galleries can spend a lot of money on lighting. They must find a delicate balance when constructing their lighting systems, as the lighting used for general illumination differs from what is needed to display and preserve artwork.  For example, the lighting used in the museum gift shop may not be the same lighting used to highlight the ancient artifact exhibit from the 16th Century.

One of the chief responsibilities in museums and galleries is protecting art work from damage. Natural light, halogens and incandescent   sources emit UV light which have been shown to be damaging to certain forms of art over time. This is particularly true for artwork on paper such as oil paintings or watercolors. UV light can cause the paper to become discolored and deteriorate. The lighting can also cause colors to fade in paintings, creating irreversible harm to the art. In comparison LEDs emit almost no UV light.

Switching to LEDs in museums and galleries can also drastically reduce energy costs upwards of 80 percent. Findings from a study published by the U.S. Department of Energy regarding retrofitting exhibition lighting found that after replacing 60-watt halogen PAR38 flood lamps with 12-watt LED PAR38 lamps, there was an 83 percent increase in energy savings. Halogen lamps are often used because of their crisp white light, a vital attribute to museums and galleries. However, these lights have a heavy energy cost in the form of heat. It costs much more to keep these lamps lit since most of the energy going inside of them is turned into heat rather than usable light. Most LEDs are designed with heat sinks, a technology that more effectively dissipate heat which can cause paint to fade and higher energy bills.

 During a presentation by Scott Rosenfed for the Smithsonian American Art Museum titled “LED Lighting in Today’s Museums,he discussed how he chose to move from incandescent lighting to LEDs. “For 20 years I was actually locked into incandescents because of its properties. And LED is the first time I can take everything that I love about lighting and use an emerging technology to accomplish all of my goals.”

LEDs are incredibly advanced when it comes to enhancing colors due to higher color temperature. The higher color temperatures in LEDs actually compliment works of art, allowing spectators to see pieces more precisely.  With this precision, art has more movement and intensity.  Deeper tones in a painting may be highlighted better using LED lighting in an exhibit.

So, whether you are running a gallery or curating at a museum, you understand the importance of preserving art. With the use of LEDs, not only is art preserved, but energy costs are reduced and artistic beauty is enhanced for years to come. Care to add any additional information on the subject of gallery and museum lighting? Leave a comment below or drop a line at Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram.

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