LEDs provide museum masters with modern lighting alongside traditional aesthetics

June 15, 2018
Museum lighting is one of those tricky applications that goes beyond the utilitarian aspects of general illumination. Two experts in the museum lighting field discussed the technical and aesthetic needs in a recent webcast.

Museum lighting is one of those tricky applications that goes beyond the utilitarian aspects of general illumination. Not only is the project team responsible for ambient light but also for creating a holistic viewing experience, enhancing the building’s architectural design, and preserving the precious works of art in the space.

Mark Sieber, president of ERCO North America, and Suzan Tillotson, founder and president, Tillotson Design Associates presented a webcast on modern museum lighting with LED technology, moderated by Lux applications editor John Bullock this past Wednesday.

Sieber commented that ERCO’s first priority is quality of light, not the luminaires. Luminaire aesthetics can be tailored in many ways that will satisfy the facility management team, but the LED lighting technology must perform well and deliver the right amount and color of illumination in the correct spots first. He also mentioned interchangeable light distribution, enabled by tertiary lenses, that allows for true flexibility in achieving museum lighting design goals. And Sieber also indicated that working with project designers like Tillotson helps companies like ERCO to push their solid-state lighting (SSL) solutions to new levels of performance and aesthetics because of the demands of the application.

Museum lighting requires lighting designers and specifiers to balance many technical and design factors. Tillotson outlined the following points of architectural consideration for museum projects:

  • Create a sense of arrival/destination with wayfinding
  • Consider transitions in quality/quantity of light
  • Make periodic visual connections to the exterior
  • Minimize visual clutter
  • Understand the identity of the institution
  • Reduce eye fatigue by minimizing high contrast

Key technical points of museum lighting installations include the following:

  • Know the type of art collection
  • Choose fixtures and lamps with (high) 90+ CRI
  • Understand the staff’s maintenance capabilities
  • Maintain proper light levels and consider the time of light on the piece
  • Maintain a 30-degree aiming angle from the center of artwork
  • Minimize distraction and glare
  • Utilize dimmable and/or dynamic white (tunable) sources
  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Minimize the thermal impact on the art environment

Interested in other examples of challenging museum and historic monument sites with delicate artwork and architectural details that required special lighting consideration? Check out these articles.

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