A stable environment
Our showcases work hard. As well as keeping your exhibits secure and protecting them from physical damage, using inert materials and sophisticated sealing techniques, they provide a safe environment that can be controlled to keep exhibits in near perfect condition.
The need for inert case materials is well known to museums because with exhibits sometimes sealed within cases for many years, it is important that the case environment does not contain pollutants that can react with and damage exhibits on display. For particularly sensitive materials like silver, activated charcoal cloth and other pollutant scavengers are used to remove any detrimental Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the environment or off-gassing from other exhibits.
Many exhibits are sensitive to light levels over a period of time and in particular damage can be caused by ultraviolet and infrared radiation. It is fundamental that cases should be shielded from natural daylight and this should be considered at the earliest stages of new building design. With the trend towards glass façades in contemporary architecture, secondary internal walling or screening systems may be required.
Structural & internal panels
There are many materials that can be used to construct your case. Each has strengths and weaknesses, so the following factors help us decide which materials to recommend:
- Conservation level (how sensitive is the exhibit?)
- Rigidity (do the internal panels need to support load?)
- Fixing (will the exhibits rest on the panel, or must they be secured?)
- Finish (some materials can support a wide range of finishes, while others cannot)
- Cost (can we supply the material within the budget you set us?)
Fully inert options include:
- Powdercoated steel
- Aluminium honeycomb sheets
With these materials it is important that exhibit mounting requirements are known prior to manufacture.
The inside of a case is a microclimate. Like the ambient climate, its temperature and humidity can vary and these variations can seriously damage your exhibits. Our job is to design cases and case systems that keep these variations to an absolute minimum.
Related Case Studies
International Slavery MuseumView case study »
Museum of Islamic ArtView case study »
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and MuseumView case study »
Did you know?
A history of air change testing
The V&A has always understood that a well sealed case is important. A sealed case keeps out dust and creates a manageable microclimate, protecting and preserving the exhibits inside. The museum also realised that a low air exchange rate is an excellent indicator of build quality.
The Oddy test
To test a material, samples are placed in test tubes with copper, silver and lead, moisture is added and they are left in a warm place. A reactive test material will cause tarnishing of the metals.
What the test shows:
Fail: bad tarnishing to all or some of the metal strips
Pass: for temporary use: slight tarnishing to all or some of the metal strips
Pass: no visible tarnishing to any of the strips
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