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Microclimate control in museums. Chapter I

Author:    Time:February-23-2022 13:13    Reading volume:303

Adopted from Trends in microclimate control of museum display cases  by Jerry Shiner

A microclimate is an environment that can be clearly defined (both by measurements of the environment, and by location). For our purposes a microclimate is usually a contained space, such as the burial chamber of a pyramid, a museum gallery, or a storage or display cabinet. Enclosure isolates the inner (microclimate) environment from the outer (ambient) environment.

Microclimate control in museums. Chapter I

While a museum gallery’s roofs and windows may reduce levels of pollutants, inclement weather, and daylight, they may also create pockets of dangerously high or low humidity, off-gassed pollutants, and over-illumination. Similar situations can be produced by any successive barrier system incorporated into the larger ambient environment. The establishment of any microclimate becomes a two-edged sword, its benefits usually obvious, and its dangers often less apparent. The history of display case microclimate is rooted in the mechanics of creating display cases, the development of appropriate methods of controlling the case environment, and the technical innovations applied to microclimate control.


An early example of passive microclimate control was observed in 1932. Where a museum case providing passively controlled humidity levels by incorporating a tray of saturated salts in a very well-sealed case. As long as the case remained sealed, and the temperature remained stable, the mixture of salts would maintain a constant relative humidity by passively buffering the moisture content of the air. A case using this system was used in the National Galleries of Scotland for the containment of a sensitive altar piece, and provided control to within 1% of the relative humidity target.