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Wednesday, May 15 • 5:00pm - 5:15pm
(Collection Care) Using Web-based eClimateNotebook to Virtually Monitor, Manage, and Evaluate Alternative Environmental Control Strategies for Museums in Historic Buildings

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The key to effective environmental management at a museum is a staff member who has the aptitude to grasp various climate control strategies, the discipline to regularly monitor temperature and humidity conditions, and an interest in identifying and correcting environmental control problems. Unfortunately, museums in historic buildings can seldom afford to employ a trained and experienced environmental manager. An alternative is to engage a consultant on museum environments to use Image Permanence Institute’s eClimateNotebook to virtually train a staff member to monitor, manage and improve the collection’s environment. Numerous museums in historic buildings have engaged the author to do just that. An ideal scenario begins with a one-day site visit to assess the collection’s environmental requirements and advise on selection and operation of appropriate environmental control equipment. If a site visit is not feasible, a virtual site visit using FaceTime can be effective.

Once the on-site environmental manager masters the simple tasks of downloading data from data loggers and uploading it to eClimateNotebook, the consultant can remotely access eClimateNotebook to view and analyze the data, and instruct the on-site manager by email or phone on adjusting set points and diagnosing and correcting environmental problems. After a full year of such coaching and on-the-job training, on-site managers are usually able to operate equipment and identify and correct environmental problems on their own. The expert’s virtual contact with the site averages only one to two hours a month, making this solution efficient and cost effective.

This presentation also explains how eClimateNotebook was used at the Shelburne Museum in northern Vermont to analyze and evaluate several years of temperature and humidity data from 30 collection buildings. This versatile software was used to systematically characterize and improve environmental conditions over the past two decades in the 24 historic and 6 modern buildings that house Shelburne’s collections of fine art, folk art and Americana.

Since it is not safe or practical to humidify many of Shelburne's historic structures in the winter, alternative environmental control strategies were developed to optimize preservation of both the buildings and the collections. Such strategies use humidistats in combination with thermostats to control equipment to maintain safe humidity levels rather than using thermostats alone to simply maintain steady temperatures in collection spaces.

These practical systems consist of various combinations of home heating and cooling systems, space heaters, dehumidifiers, attic and basement fans, and mini-split ductless heat pumps. A digital building automation system controls the equipment.

eClimateNotebook analysis shows that such practical systems are nearly as effective as sophisticated conventional museum-quality HVAC systems in maintaining Class A environmental conditions of 40% to 60% relative humidity year-round, with set points gradually adjusted from 45% RH in the winter to 55% RH in the summer. These smaller and simpler systems are more sustainable than conventional museum HVAC systems due to their ease of operation, energy efficiency, and significantly reduced cost to purchase, install and operate.

avatar for Richard Kerschner

Richard Kerschner

Principal, Kerschner Museum Conservation Services
Richard Kerschner is the principal of Kerschner Museum Conservation Services, LLC. He has extensive experience in preventive conservation and conservation project management and is recognized nationally for his expertise in practical and sustainable environmental control for museums... Read More →

Wednesday May 15, 2019 5:00pm - 5:15pm
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun