Keeping your world up and running.®

Meeting the demanding environmental standards of an art museum

July 1, 2011

Checking air temperature with Fluke 62 IR Thermometer

Mark Janco of ENTEC Services, Inc. uses the Fluke 62 IR Thermometer to check air temperature in one of the exhibit spaces.

One of the critical challenges of maintaining the environmental systems for the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, is the need to adhere to the Smithsonian’s environmental guidelines. These guidelines, governing relative humidity (RH) and temperature in exhibition and general storage spaces, were established to prevent the degradation of paint, paper, wood and other media used in displayed artwork. These guidelines help prevent damage caused by excessive heat, cold, or moisture that promotes the growth of mold. Any art museum that wants to display some of the world’s most impressive art collections must meet these criteria.

Seasonal Flexibility

The guidelines require 50% RH ±5% RH and 70°F ±2°F (21° ±16°C), with some flexibility for seasonal changes in environmental conditions. For example, in the winter RH can go as low as 40 % to eliminate condensation problems; however, the ideal winter setting is between 45 % and 50 % RH. Conversely, in the summer RH can be up to 55 %RH. Temperature settings are governed mostly by visitor comfort requirements.

Verification and Calibration

To ensure that the Figge Art Museum facility meets these standards, Mark Janco, Engineering Specialist for ENTEC Services, Inc., works closely with the museum’s facilities staff to keep the HVAC system working accurately and efficiently. The system controls are set to Smithsonian standards and are monitored by the Delta Controls Building Automation system. If the parameters fall out of tolerance, the facilities manager receives an alarm to his cell phone and on his PC. ENTEC performs quarterly onsite inspections of all control systems - particularly those for temperature and humidity.

Checking temperature and humidity with Fluke 971 Temperature Humidity Meter

Mark Janco uses his Fluke 971 to confirm that the temperature and humidity are at optimum levels.

Janco uses the Fluke 62 Mini Infrared Thermometer to measure the temperature of the air coming out of the ducting system to calibrate the temperature controls and to detect potential problems. He also uses a Fluke 971 Temperature Humidity Meter to verify the humidity of the overall exhibit space. If the temperature and/or RH values are off, Janco uses the Fluke 971 to calibrate the controls to bring them back within the Smithsonian guidelines.

Thanks to strict adherence to the Smithsonian’s environmental guidelines, the Figge has presented its visitors with a wide range of notable art since its opening in 2005, including the John Deere art collection and Pollock’s Mural and other modern masterworks from the University of Iowa Museum of Art.