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Museums turning to LED lighting to preserve paintings

Museums turning to LED lighting to preserve paintings

By BizLED Bureau

August 12, 2015: Museums around the world are shifting to LED lights to protect the valuable paintings from being damaged by light exposure. For example, Michelangelo?s painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was updated using 7,000 LED lights, as the ceiling was fading from sunlight exposure and halogen lighting.

Natural light, halogens and incandescent lights emit UV light, which damage certain forms of art over time. This is particularly true for artwork on paper such as oil paintings or watercolors. UV light makes the paper to become discolored and deteriorate. The lighting can also cause colors to fade in paintings.

These traditional lights also cause dark pigments in paintings over a period of time. According to a report by Wired, Van Gogh?s famous painting Sunflowers has darkened due to over exposed to light.

It is also found that blue lights, which are found in abundance in fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, significantly damage paintings.

In comparison LEDs emit almost no UV light. Also, most LED bulbs are designed with heat sinks that effectively dissipate heat which can cause painting to fade.

Also, by switching to LED lighting in museums and galleries, energy costs can be reduced by about 80%. A study published by the US Department of Energy regarding retrofitting exhibition lighting found that after replacing 60-watt halogen PAR38 flood lamps with 12-watt LED PAR38 lamps, there was an 83% increase in energy savings.

Downside of LED lights

However, there is a downside of using LED lights as well. It is its unnatural white glare. Museums, on the other hand, prefer warm white light like that of halogen bulbs.

As a solution to this, researchers are adding different combinations of phosphor with LEDs to get the desired warm color temperature usually liked by museums.

However, LED lights can still damage paintings. Concerned lighting designers are designing lighting that enhances the artwork rather than lighting up the entire room. This kind of lighting reduces light exposure for paintings, and causes less damage. Designers are also designing LED lights whose directions can be controlled.

A good point about LED is that its color temperature can be adjusted to mimic sunlight, without emitting harmful UV rays. However, museums still prefer LEDs that function similarly to incandescent lights.


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