Airborne Particles in Museums
William W. Nazaroff, Mary P. Ligocki, Lynn G. Salmon, Glen R. Cass, Theresa Fall, Michael C. Jones, Harvey I.H. Liu, and Timothy Ma
This study represents the latest in a series of research activities aimed at a better understanding of the origin and fate of air pollution within the built environment.
Most previous studies of air pollution in cultural institutions have focused on gases. Particles were ignored for many reasons: they seemed to be more easily removed by the building; gaseous air pollutants had been well studied by industry, and their effects on commercial products were heavily documented; and many particle types were considered chemically benign to almost all surfaces. Even carbon black, which is now known to pose enormous degradation risks to the optical and color qualities of paintings and tapestries, is almost totally inert. Recognizing this, and understanding that we needed to know much more about the physics of particle intrusion in museum buildings, in 1987 the Environmental Engineering Lab at the California Institute of Technology, under contract to the Getty Conservation Institute, began a detailed examination of five different museums in Southern California. These structures represent a diverse range of architectural and ventilation types. Through this study a powerful computer model was developed that could predict the soiling effects of changes made to the operation or maintenance of a building. This model can even be used to estimate the soiling rates of new buildings or major rehabilitations before any construction work is begun.
This is an important contribution to both the conservation community and the broader field of air quality science.