TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  What has and can be done?
Author  :  Wendel Swan mailto:%20wdswan@erols.com
Date  :  01-21-2001 on 07:20 a.m.
Dear Sara,

As you are in a special position to know, I would like to understand both what the Textile Museum has done over the years with its lighting system and what, if anything, could be done to enhance a visitor's enjoyment of the objects displayed.

Many people in the rug community don't like what they see or can't see. Whether or not the complaints are meritorious, it is an issue that should be addressed or else the fundamental relationship between the museum and its constituents will degrade.

I don't see this as your side and my side. You might have been a little more cautious with the statement: "Sorry guys, but science is on our side." In the battle of authorities, remember what God said: "Let there be light!"

I do not dispute the necessity of complying with lighting standards, both for the preservation of the textiles and to maintain accreditation. However, "It's the rule" seems to be the tome of bureaucrats everywhere. So to say that "science is on our side" hardly answers the questions raised by frustrated collectors.

As you pointed out, Gary Thompson established maximum lighting standards for museums in 1978 and, as you concede, those standards have some arbitrariness to them. In view of developments in bulbs, filters, fiber optics and other technology, does the "50 lux" standard really have a consistent meaning today? Are museums compelled to adhere to that standard even when innovation in techniques or technology would demonstrably result in less harm?

Assuming that the TM began adhering to the "50 lux" standard many years ago, I would like to know what the museum has done since then to enhance the visitors' enjoyment of its objects through any innovations that have been mentioned in this salon.

The next part to this question is: what could be done?

I recall when you and I and others went to the Metropolitan in New York to see Flowers Underfoot. My recollection (perception?) is that the lighting for that exhibition was more satisfactory (for lack of a better word) to me than that in the typical TM installation. Yet the Met must adhere to the same 50 lux standard. It seems that the lighting at three different installations of the Goldman ikats resulted in different perceptions of those objects.

If museums are all following the same standards, why do the rugs at the Met appear brighter than those at the TM and why do the rugs at the TM appear brighter than those at the V+A?

Also, you stated: "So, if you can't see something well in an exhibit, it is apt to be as much a function of the lighting design as the actual light level." Clearly, money can be an issue. I know how tight things have been at the TM. I remember not too long ago that the TM couldn't afford to fix a leak in the kitchen sink, so the staff had to put a dishpan beneath the trap when they wanted to wash out a dish or get some water.

In fact, money might be raised specifically for lighting improvements. I have no idea just how much it would take to remedy the long-standing problems at the TM, but my own amateurish experiments lead me to believe that desirable effects can be achieved at surprisingly low cost.

Best regards,


Subject  :  Re:What has and can be done?
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-21-2001 on 07:37 a.m.
Wendell, this is not an easy one to answer. Certainly, for The Textile Museum, it would be a case of money, and large amounts at that. The lighting system at the TM is severely antiquated. It was installed when the gallery building was redone in the 1980s. Technology has improved greatly since then, not only in the variety of fixtures and bulbs available, but the systems for "hanging" lights. I have no idea what it would cost...this is beyond my area of expertise completely.

As for the actual light levels, I mentioned in one of my replies that a study is ongoing right now, and I'm expecting to see a draft of new guidlines for museum environment in the near future (this is a project being worked on by among others, the Getty Conservation Institute as well as lighting and environmental engineers). For the most sensitive objects (paper, textiles) it is unlikely that the standards will suggest higher light levels. It is more likely that newer, different kinds of bulbs and fixtures will be recommended that emit low levels of UV radiation but give a good color spectrum. I'm sorry I don't have a real answer for your question, other than, "no it hasn't been a matter of serious discussion at the TM." Perhaps when there's a new facility?

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