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Light and collections.

The damaging effects of light are familiar to everyone: fading curtains or inks, yellowing paper, and even sunburned skin. Whilst the effect of direct sunlight is extreme, any amount of light is damaging to cultural collections like those housed by the National Library of Australia. Managing the exposure of collection material to light is essential to preserve the collections for as long as possible.

The Library has an extensive exhibition program. This presents the challenge of managing the damaging effects of light exposure whilst still providing access to the collections. The Library already has good working procedures for its current low-risk, temporary displays, where low lighting levels and short display periods mean damage will not be visible unless an item is repeatedly displayed over many years. More challenging will be the conservation of items that are displayed permanently as part of a planned Treasures Gallery.

There is currently no standard that addresses exhibition lighting, so I was very pleased to be awarded the 2006 Kenneth Binns Travelling Fellowship in order to investigate exhibition lighting policies in other cultural institutions. I hoped that this would enable the Library to review and develop our own policy.

The Fellowship commemorates the significant contribution of Kenneth Binns' work as Chief Librarian of the Commonwealth National Library from 1928 to 1947, a great period of growth for the Library. Binns secured the funds and support to acquire some significant parts of the collection and oversaw the Library's move from Melbourne to Canberra. Binns was committed to staff development and was himself the first Australian librarian to be awarded a Carnegie travelling fellowship. The award is sponsored by Ms Alison Sanchez, the daughter of Kenneth Binns.

I arranged to meet with staff in other cultural institutions to discuss their procedures. I travelled to London and visited the British Library, the British Museum and the National Archives. I also met with leading experts at Tate Britain and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was interesting to discover that each of these institutions deals with exhibition lighting in different ways. While this means there are no simple answers, it allows me to use what I have learned to develop the most appropriate policy for the National Library of Australia.

Whilst in the UK, I attended two conferences: the Institute of Paper Conservation 5th International Conference, which is one of the major conferences for conservators, and the Institute of Conservation Photographic Materials Group Annual Meeting. My poster on the digital photograph collection at the National Library of Australia was well received. Attending these conferences gave me the opportunity to learn about new conservation research and allowed me to meet conservators from many countries.

I am extremely grateful to have received the Fellowship and would like to thank both Mrs Sanchez and the National Library of Australia for giving me this opportunity. I was able to learn a great deal about lighting policies and many other areas of conservation practice that are of direct benefit to my work and will help my contribution to the Library's Strategic Directions.

Rowena Jameson

Collection Preservation Section
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Title Annotation:managing exhibition lighting
Author:Jameson, Rowena
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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