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Preservation starts with clean air

The effect of the indoor environment on museum objects has received increasing attention from museum and conservation staff over the past 150 years. Most attention has focused on the effects of variations in light exposure, relative humidity and temperature. Meanwhile, less attention has been focused on the effects of air pollutants, even though the deterioration caused by air pollutants can be just as destructive as, for example, deterioration caused by exposure to high light levels.

Effects of indoor air pollution can be hard to detect

A partial explanation is that the effect of indoor air pollutants is not always obvious. Some types of deterioration, such as corrosion, are easily recognized. But other decay processes are harder to detect, such as loss of fiber strength in a material. And as a pollutant rarely is the only factor in a deterioration process, but interacts with relative humidity, temperature, and even other pollution compounds, the situation is complex. Furthermore, indoor air pollution is not uniform from location to location and indoor air typically contains hundreds of compounds considered to be "pollutants."

Much of today's terminology and modern approaches toward fighting indoor air pollution have been adapted from the science of human health and comfort. While some of these adapted technologies and ideas are useful (for example, air-measuring methods), others are less so. Maintaining and preserving the “health” of museum objects is substantially different from maintaining and preserving the health of human beings. Museum objects are intended to last for centuries or even millennia. And while the human body can heal from exposure to small doses of poisonous substances, materials in an object accumulate deterioration from any attack, slowly decaying more and more. Therefore, even small exposures to pollutants will have a large effect over time, similar in principle to the effect of accumulated light causing the fading of dyes.

IQAir has solutions for museums

IQAir has the ability to assist museums by providing highly specialized air cleaning solutions drawn from a wide range of air cleaning technologies and approaches. Whether the problem stems from polluted outdoor air or from a particular chemical substance released by indoor materials, IQAir is able to offer solutions that match the particular problem and fit the budget and other practical requirements of the museum.               

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