Environmental Controls in Museums, Libraries, and Archives

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Course Overview

Museums, libraries and archives preserve our cultural heritage, making them destinations for scholars, patrons and tourists alike. Their collections may be housed in historic structures or modern architecture that require a significant infrastructure of mechanical and electrical systems to support their environment.

Learn how to efficiently achieve the proper conditions for material preservation and conservation in a museum environment. Increase your understanding of the temperature and humidity requirements, while balancing the needs of the collections, personal comfort and the building itself. Comply with the codes, improve energy efficiency, incorporate improvements in lighting and HVAC controls, validate design criteria, and coordinate with museum curators, conservators, librarians, designers and consultants.

Update your knowledge of materials preservation, incorporate the latest research findings in your designs and improve the operations in your collections facilities. The classroom lectures and discussion in the course will be supplemented by behind-the-scenes site visits to museums and libraries on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus.

Who Should Attend?

  • Museum and library facilities operations staff
  • Conservators and collections managers
  • Librarians, archivists and curators
  • University and government project managers
  • Mechanical and electrical design engineers
  • Architects and project team members
  • Construction managers and contractors

Course Outline

Day 1

Welcome and Introduction

HVAC Fundamentals

  • Abbreviations, standards, and references
  • The need for environmental controls 
  • Ventilation and indoor air quality
  • Buildings and energy efficiency
  • Psychrometrics primer
    • Properties of moist air
    • Psychrometric chart
    • Sensible and latent

Climate Control in Memory Institutions

  • Preservation of heritage assets
  • Change of conservation paradigm
  • Climate related risks in museums
    • Fungal growth and insects
    • Chemical degradation
    • Mechanical damage
  • Evolution of environmental guidelines
  • Acclimatization concept
  • Lighting policy and access
  • Costs of the preservation
  • Balancing preservation and its cost
    • Yale University Peabody Museum and ESC
    • Passive storage facility in Vejle, Denmark


Day 2

Museum Mechanical Systems

  • Climate control refresher
  • Load calculations and energy modeling
  • Climate control equipment overview 
    • Chilled water and D/X cooling
    • Heating systems options
  • Temperature and RH control equipment
  • Automatic controls
    • Energy conservation measures
    • Equipment failure response
  • Air filtration
  • Vibration and noise concerns 
  • Testing and commissioning 

Fire Protection for Museums

  • What is fire?
  • Fire safety concepts tree
  • Fire detection systems
  • Water-based fire suppression
    • Wet and dry-pipe sprinklers
    • Pre-action systems
    • Water mist systems
  • Clean agent fire suppression
  • NFPA 909 overview
  • Inspection, testing, and maintenance

Museum Electrical Systems

  • Building power systems
  • Emergency power
  • Lighting
  • Lighting controls 

UW–Madison Site Visits

  • Museum
    • Chazen Museum of Art  
    • Elvehjem building
  • Library
    • Memorial Library
    • Special collections


Day 3

Planning and Architectural Considerations

  • Planning process and procedure
  • Development of design criteria
  • Historic building preservation
  • Establishing aesthetic priorities
  • Display case and casework design
  • Integration of new MEP systems
  • Case study of Beinecke Rare Book Library

Climate Control Strategy Exercises

  • Access – preservation – sustainability
  • Museum buildings
    • Passive storage concept
    • Classical museum design
    • Historic house concerns
  • Museum collection
    • Paintings and sculpture
    • Textiles
    • Prints and drawings
    • Archive

Collection Protection and Handling

  • Environmental monitoring
  • Pest control and precaution
  • Water leak detection alarms
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Emergency remediation
  • Handling materials on-loan
  • Collection moving and storage

Museum Security

  • Physical considerations
    • Burglar alarm systems and monitoring
    • Card access for locking devices and hardware and window glazing and doors
  • Guard forces


"Great discussion and exchange of ideas...great opportunity to see how other people store and conserve their 'stuff.'"
—William, U.S. Army, Rock Island, Illinois

"Very technical, but glad it was. Everyone interesting plus knowledgeable."
—Gina, Gallery Coordinator, South Texas College Library, McAllen, Texas

"Good knowledge and several points to share with other departments...like every item on every topic."
—Randall, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin

"The speakers were all great, wealth of relevant project experience and examples."
—Alison, Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts

"Did learn items that had not occurred to me before and will consider them in our facilities."
—Sean, Charleston Naval Complex, North Charleston, South Carolina

"I like the thoroughness plus the real life illustrations. I also liked the exercises to help with the learning process."
—Nanette, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

"The quality of the speakers and depth of material absolutely justify the expense."
—Marian, Byron Museum, Byron, Illinois


Richard Boardman

Richard E. Boardman is the Manager of Operations and Security for the Peabody Museum of Natural History, at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut. Having worked at the Peabody Museum for 30 years, Rich is currently responsible for managing their facilities with a particular emphasis on providing a secure preservation environment for the Museum’s collections and exhibits. He is a Board member of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, and a member of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. Rich received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Wagner College and a Master of Science degree in Marine Biology from the University of Bridgeport.

Lukasz Bratasz

Lukasz Bratasz, PhD, leads the Cultural Heritage Research Group at the Haber Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, and formerly served as Director of the Sustainable Conservation Lab at the Institute for Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University. His research and work as a consultant focuses on the environmentally induced degradation of cultural heritage materials, risk assessment and design of sustainable methods of collection care, especially energy efficient strategies for climate control. Lukasz graduated in Physics from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland in 1996, and received a PhD in Physics in 2002 from the same university. At that time, he joined the staff of the Jerzy Haber Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, and for many years, he headed the Laboratory of Analysis and Non-Destructive Testing of Artefacts in the National Museum in Krakow.

William Mahalko

William J. Mahalko is an Architect Senior Associate at HBRA Architects, Inc. in Chicago, Illinois. He has extensive experience in higher education, institutional and residential restoration and renovation projects, and over the past 10 years has served as Project Architect and design consultant for a wide variety of projects at the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, leading up to the recently completed Comprehensive Renovation of the Library. William received a Bachelor of Architectural Studies degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a licensed Architect in the State of Illinois.

Mark Malkin

Mark P. Malkin, PE is a Program Director in the UW–Madison Department of Engineering Professional Development (EPD). He is a registered Professional Engineer with over 25 years of combined experience in university construction project management and HVAC systems design. His course offerings in the Facilities segment of EPD include HVAC and plumbing fundamentals, building and property maintenance code review, and design and operation of science labs, data centers, museums and libraries. Mark received his bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, and his master's in Mechanical Engineering from UW–Madison.

Tom Newbold

Thomas Newbold, PE is a Principal at Landmark Facilities Group in Norwalk, Connecticut. Tom is a licensed Professional Engineer in Mechanical Engineering in numerous states, and his work has focused on unique engineered systems in buildings for over twenty years. Tom has been involved in the study and design of special climate control systems throughout the United States and has served clients including The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum, The Frick Collection, The Pierpont Morgan Library, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, and many house museums. Tom holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s of Business Administration.

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Program Director

Mark Malkin

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