Savings And Stewardship At The North Carolina Museum Of Art

The North Carolina Museum of Art is home to a spectacular collection of treasures worth more than $1 billion. The Museum maintains a permanent collection spanning more than 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt to the present, and hosts national touring exhibitions, classes, lectures, family activities, films, and concerts. This impressive array of exhibits and programs makes NCMA one of the premier art museums in the South—one which has over 23,000 members and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year.

NCMA Executive Director Dr. Larry Wheeler relies on the Museum’s conservation experts and facilities team to work together to manage the environmental system to ensure the collection is protected and visitors are comfortable. In 2005, the facilities team discovered that the Museum was experiencing wide fluctuations in temperature and humidity, with swings of 30% to 60%. Director Wheeler and the Museum conservators knew immediately that what might be a mere annoyance for another type of facility is a very serious problem for an art Museum. Such extreme variations in temperature and humidity cause canvases to expand and contract and lead to their premature aging, and allow other art forms and artifacts to deteriorate. Without corrective action on the Museum’s environmental system, it would continue to act as an “artificial aging chamber” for its permanent collections and touring exhibits.

Dr. Wheeler and his team began to research current technologies for Museum environmental systems, as well as viable means of funding the needed improvements. What they found was a state-of-the-art HVAC approach that would pay for itself in reduced energy use and costs.

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