Museums, galleries and archives across Europe are not immune to damage caused by pollution. Most institutions are aware of the problem; however they lack the technical ability and know-how to properly address it. The costs of properly counteracting pollution damage are high and only the most prestigious institutions have the budget to employ conservators or scientists with knowledge in the field. The EU, however, is supporting and has supported a variety of projects which are creating technologies which allow museum staff, architects and engineers to make the best decisions possible regarding pollution control for their organisations.
Pollution damage is a serious issue in museums and archives across Europe. The IMPACT project aimed at helping museums control the damage caused by gaseous pollutants. Researchers developed a software tool which was able to predict indoor pollutant concentrations from outdoor concentrations and building parameters as well as give information about the damage the pollution could cause and suggest appropriate control thresholds. The tool was also designed to assess the impact of different pollution control strategies and encourage museums to adopt best practices in preventive conservation.
IMPACT also developed materials suitable for use as passive air absorbers in museums. By bringing together a wide range of institutes, museums and government, researchers were able to better understand the scope of end-users’ needs and create a tool that could easily be used by non-specialists.
Researchers developed a methodology for the measurement of pollutants under normal conditions. It was tested on a variety of finishes and materials to obtain the most accurate and wide-ranging data possible. The pollution model was designed to monitor both naturally and mechanically ventilated buildings and works on any modern computer system. A key element of IMPACT was showing how natural processes can remove damaging air pollutants before they are capable of causing harm to important pieces of cultural heritage.
Current membrane desalination plants are based on reverse osmosis (RO) processes. These are benefiting from scientific and technological advances – notably in terms of materials development and energy needs – and are combined with energy recovery devices. Projects under FP6 addressing membrane desalination include MEDINA and MEDESOL. The latter for instance is working on seawater desalination by an innovative solar-powered membrane-distillation system.
The costs per unit of treated water in membrane systems depend to a large extent on the operational and management costs, with the lifespan of the membranes being a particularly important factor. For decades scientists have been expanding their knowledge of phenomena like membrane fouling and scaling as well as membrane transfer and fluxes. R&D efforts are tackling these and other issues like pre-treatment, cleaning and disposal strategies.
In only 15 years the cost of membrane-desalted water has been halved to close to 0.40€/m³ (worth comparing with the costs of the bottled water consumed in Europe!). And thanks to scientific and technical efforts the costs of RO water are expected to drop still further in the near future.
Another EU-funded project aimed at combating pollution damage to cultural heritage was MASTER. This project developed a preventive conservation strategy for conservation staff of museums, historical buildings and archives. This new strategy is based on an early warning system which assesses the environmental impact on the deterioration of cultural heritage collections made of organic materials.
Researchers looked into the previous methods of conservation and created an innovative preventive conservation strategy. This new, early-warning system provides a relatively cost-effective and easy way for museums and other users to evaluate the quality of the environment they provide for organic objects.
Using new technologies, researchers were able to create new, more accurate tools for testing the environment where organic objects are stored. The new dosimeter is more accurate and easier to read, as well as being easier to interpret and compare with other data.
The EU has sponsored numerous other projects working to better the indoor environment of Europe’s cultural heritage. For example, IDAP looked at ways to better protect parchments, MIMIC created methods to protect the indoor environment of easel paintings, and VIDRIO looked at protected stained glass. Support in this area is continuing under FP7 with several projects researching indoor environment and cultural heritage.