Session 9: Preventive Conservation (Constantina Vlachou-Mogire and Nigel Blades)

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Through our experiences, we are all in some way aware that light plays an influential role in the appreciation of historic interiors and museum collections. Lighting conditions can not only affect visitor comfort but can also affect the vulnerability of the showcased objects. The second theme of Session 9, Preventive Conservation, highlights sustainable and reversible/non-intrusive systems to manage the performance and optimum use of daylight in historic buildings.

With a smiling face, the third speaker Constantina Vlachou-Mogire from Historic Royal Palaces spoke about her research project in the paper 'Developing “Smart” Solutions for Light Management for Historic Collections’. She discussed a very elegant method of applying smart tint film on windows as a protective measure for historic tapestries on open display in the Grade 1 Great Watching Chamber at Hampton Court Palace.

Responding to the Q&A Chair Ms. Sarah Staniforth on the global applicability of the technique, Constantina informed that the smart film was initially not widely available but can now be found locally in several places. The operation of the method is flexible to different climatic regions with temperatures between -5 to 60 degree Celsius. Ms. Vlachou-Mogire emphasized that the benefits of this application are its scalability and flexibility- it can be altered from a very small area to a large-scale area. She said that the method of the film attachment may vary from low tech double-sided tape to expensive frames and double glazed units depending on the budget of the project.

This talk generated a lot of well-meaning curiosity and questions during the live presentation as well as the live video discussion. Constantina reassured everyone that these high performing new materials have a life expectancy of about ten years, they reduce heat gain in the summer and enhance the environment of a space while maintaining energy efficiency. There cannot be a better example to elucidate that the future is sustainable!

In the next talk on the same theme, Nigel Blades showed us an innovative method to map illumination with an in situ study at the Volury at Ham House. This is detailed in his research paper, ‘Improved Daylight Management of Historic Showrooms: A Methodology Based on Detailed Recording and Analysis’. During the zoom platform session held after the live presentation on November 5, Nigel explained that the system developed is globally applicable with inexpensive hardware. The image processing and calibration of the room surfaces was expertly done by team member John Mardaljevic who looks forward to developing an easy tool in the form of a software package for wider usability. However, the technique is at an early stage of assessing object vulnerability due to light radiation, and further tests and trials are to be done. We wish Nigel, John and their team good luck for their experiments!

Read more about the environment and vibration monitoring themes by checking out the other Session 9 blog posts, cheers!


Carlos Izurieta is a senior student of conservation and restoration of paintings and sculptures at Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain.

Samantha Springer specializes in sculpture and variable and is the Owner and Principal Conservator of Art Solutions Lab in Portland, Oregon, US.

Priyanka Panjwani is a conservation architect and design professional based in Mumbai, India.