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The future of Daylight in Museum Galleries

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
Sara Morris
Cardiff University, UK
This dissertation assesses the desirability of daylighting in museum galleries today and evaluates the need for a complex high-tech system to control illumination.

Using secondary data, a brief survey of the developments of daylighting in museum galleries over two centuries is given. The factors in the 1940s and '50s which caused daylight to fall from favour are examined- conservation guidelines on lighting exposure, the controllability of electric lighting and the need for flexibility in display areas. The reasons for the reintroduction of daylighting into museum galleries in the last decade are investigated. The value of daylight is assessed and a survey made of the control strategies that are at present available.

Primary data was obtained using a questionnaire issues to 25 British museums with a range of questions seeking quantitative and qualitative data regarding use, desirability and control of daylighting. The results confirmed that daylighting is highly valued in the majority of museums and the investment of money in the installation of a complex high-tech system is not seen as a priority. The questionnaire was followed by a personal visit to see and assess the control sysems adopted by two contrasting galleries- the high-tech system at the Llewelyn-Davies, Weeks extension of the Tate Gallery and the simpler system adopted by the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

My research convinced me of the value of daylighting in museum galleries. However it is inevitable that some form of lighting control is adopted. My research revealed that it is possible to have a satisfactory control system withoutht the burden of installing and maintaining a costly complex system. Museum conservation can be achieved in an energy-efficient way - by an increased use of daylighting. I am confident that daylighting has a role in our museum galleries in the future. However there is still the need for further research in order to develop confidence in daylighting.


Cannon-Brookes, S. Daylight in Museum Galleries: Quantiive Evaluation using Scale Models.
Phd Thesis for Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff. 1995

Cassar, M. Environmental Management - Guidelines for Museums and Galleries,
London: Routledge, 1995.

Thomson, G. The Museum Environment 2nd ed. London: Butterworths, 1986.

Wilson, M. "The Hampton Site Extension: Lighting Considerations" from
A Conference on Lighting in Museums, Galleries and Historic Houses,
organised by The Museum Association United Kingdom Institute for Conservation Group of Designers and Interpreters in Museums. Clwyd: Archetype Books, pp 85-88.

Sara Morris

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