July 1, 2008

"The Perils of Museum Design"

The Boston Globe has a good piece entitled "The Perils of Museum Design" on the vapor barrier problems at Harvard's Otto Hall, home to the Busch Reisinger Museum. Otto Hall is slated to be torn down to make way for a new Renzo Piano addition to the adjacent Fogg Museum.

Otto Hall was built in 1991 with state-of-the-art temperature and humidity control systems. Unfortunately, this was before architects and engineers fully understood how to keep escaping humidity from damaging the building envelope. Apparently the damage to the building was bad enough that it might have been torn down even without the Fogg expansion. Unfortunately, this kind of problem still happens with newly built museums, but seldom makes the national news. 

A relatively good discussion of wall systems can be found in this educational piece for an air barrier company.

Update:  Sadly, these links are out of date. Here are several other interesting discussions:

The Nothern States Conservation Center on Relative Humidity and Temperature

A piece posted by the National Archives by the father of this discussion, Ernest Conrad: The Realistic Preservation Environment

And here is a good, if technical, discussion of the challenge of Humidity Control in the Humid South.

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