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Temperature and Relative Humidity

Extremes in temperature and relative humidity can cause damage to different types of collection objects. Some types of objects are more sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity than others, it is important to know what types of materials objects are made from and how they react to different environmental conditions. The Alliance has compiled this set of resources on temperature and relative humidity from amongst its own offerings as well as those throughout the nonprofit and museum sector.

Alliance Resources

Crack Warp Shrink Flake: A New Look at Conservation Standards

Museum magazine looks at changes in environmental conditions and standards (including the 50/70 standard), and the practical difficulties of sustaining relative humidity and temperature.

Other Resources

The following resources were compiled from organizations throughout the nonprofit and museum sector. AAM reviewed and approved each one based on the organization’s authority and expertise and the resource’s usefulness related to the topic. Clicking the links below will take you off the AAM website.

Controlling Unwanted Moisture in Historic Buildings

The National Park Service’s (NPS) Preservation Brief titled Holding the Line: Controlling Unwanted Moisture in Historic Buildings offers tips for uncovering and analyzing moisture problems, selecting an appropriate level of treatment, and providing ongoing care; it includes a glossary and bibliography.

Environmental Guidelines Wiki

To help provide guidance to the museum community, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) has created the Environmental Guidelines Working Group to provide a platform for conservators and cultural heritage scientists to review past practices in this arena. This article, from the Working Group, aims to summarize some of the historical research that has brought us to this point as well as the recent work that has resulted in our current thinking on environmental parameters.

Getting Function from Design: Making Systems Work

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) offers a technical leaflet, Getting Function from Design: Making Systems Work, that lists verification tasks that museum staff need to perform in each stage of the project (construction, start-up, and normal operations) in order to ensure their needs are met for temperature and humidity control.

Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling Historic Buildings

The National Park Service (NPS) offers a Preservation Brief titled Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling Historic Buildings: Problems and Recommended Approaches. This brief includes the steps in planning and designing a new system, an overview of HVAC options, a list of Do’s and Don’ts, and a bibliography.

HVAC Installation, Renovation, and Collections Environments – An Introduction

This recorded webinar from the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation Connecting to Collections Care community discusses how to achieve appropriate preservation environments and includes strategies for collections and institutional staff working with engineers/contractors during HVAC design, installation, and renovation processes.

Monitoring Temperature and Relative Humidity

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) offers a technical leaflet that discusses equipment for monitoring temperature and relative humidity. It lists questions to ask before making a purchase and offers guidance in establishing a systematic monitoring program. It includes a bibliography and a list of suppliers.

Proceedings of the Smithsonian Institution Summit on the Museum Preservation Environment

This March 2013 summit was the result of Smithsonian collections and facilities management staff desiring a written standard and best practices document for the management of environments in spaces where collections are housed. It addresses the contradictions that controlled environments of many of the Smithsonian’s collections were based on commonly held notions of environmental “standards” (i.e., 70°F/45% RH with ± variations) are at odds with current and even historical research findings and not understood by stakeholders to be the final and best preservation environment for all collections. (Proceedings edited by Sarah Stauderman William G. Tompkins)

Temperature, Relative Humidity, Light, and Air Quality: Basic Guidelines for Preservation

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) offers a technical leaflet that provides basic preservation guidelines for temperature, relative humidity, light, and air quality.

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