By Jami Swartz
Museum exhibition lighting helps showcase displayed objects in their full glory. When installed properly exhibition lighting will go mostly unnoticed by the average museum guest. However, as our Care and Conservation class learned last week, the task of illuminating quilts for exhibition at IQSCM is a considered process that balances visual enjoyment with preservation and care. Improper lighting can lead to irreversible damage of textiles and quilts, which is counter to IQSCM’s mission of long term preservation and care. Because of this, many factors including the type of bulb used, the intensity of illumination, as well as the position and angle of light sources are carefully considered and measured when illuminating exhibitions at IQSCM.
|The author holding a light meter up to a quilt included in |
the Art Quilts of the Midwest exhibit at IQSCM.
|Fellow Care and Conservation classmate Sarah holds a |
light meter up to a quilt in the Art Quilts of the Midwest exhibit at IQSCM.
A light meter is held close to the surface of each quilt in order to measure the intensity of illumination. The person measuring the light intensity moves the meter across the entire surface of the quilt to make sure that no part is receiving light over the set threshold of 50 lux, or 5 foot candles. If the light meter reads over 50 lux (or 5 foot candles) the light source must be adjusted.
|David Crews adjusts a light fixture while fellow |
Care and Conservation classmate Christi holds a light
meter up to a quilt in the Art Quilts of the Midwest exhibit.
|David Crews helps Sarah add a filter to a light fixture.|
|David Crews and Sarah make some final lighting decision.|
IQSCM offers visitors the chance to view exceptional and often rare quilts in beautiful spaces, and lighting plays a key role in this. David Crews’ lighting lessons also involved paying attention to the visual aesthetics of exhibited objects. One must make sure the object’s true colors are displayed correctly and respect any artistic intent (if present). In addition to making sure the object is presented in a pleasing and accurate manner, Crews also makes sure that none of the lighting fixtures shine on or at museum guest while they are in the gallery space—untoward glare from a light fixture is not a pleasant experience.
|The halogen bulb graveyard: IQSCM recently switched from |
halogen to LED bulbs. The halogens bulbs will be recycled.
As you have seen, lighting museum exhibitions is a multifaceted task with issues concerning preservation as well as aesthetics. Careful planning and artful employment of lights helps museum guests enjoy IQSCM’s collections while keeping the irreversible damages of light to a minimum.
The International Quilt Study Center & Museum makes its academic home in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences.