Protecting the museum collections from fading is a balancing act: complete protection means never displaying certain objects. Wherever possible, we try and find a compromise that preserves the object for future generations, but still makes it accessible to today’s museum visitors.
We’ve recently replaced the lighting in the 17th century gallery at the Worcestershire County Museum. It’s a display that hasn’t changed in many years and although the label design now looks quite dated, the objects are fascinating and so is the accompanying story about Worcestershire’s loyalties in the English Civil War.
Within the display are embroideries which are particularly vulnerable to light damage. To try and protect them, the light levels were set very low and visitors found it hard to see the into the case properly. Fading is caused by too much light: the amount of light an object gets in total over its life. So the choice is either good lighting for short exposures, or low light for long exposures.
We’ve replaced the old halogen lights in this gallery with new LED lights on a system that responds to movement. This means that the lights only come on when a visitor looks into the case – so they can be bright because they are on for less time.
As a result it’s now possible to see the beautiful details on some very special 17th century embroideries from the Worcestershire County museum collection. The variety of stitches and thread on the panel pictured here give a shape and freedom to the work of a talented embroiderer working four centuries ago. Sadly we have no idea of their identity but the joy in their work continues to shine.