April 30, 2009

Witold Rybczynski on the new Smithsonian African American Museum

Witold Rybczynski has an interesting slideshow in Slate on the competition entries for the new African American Museum. He concludes that the winning design "manages to appear both primal and modern and, in some ineffable way, seems right for an African-American museum—respectful of the Mall, yet standing slightly apart."

April 22, 2009

Earth Day: Sustainable Museums Everywhere

Virtually every museum construction project is either going for "green design" or a full LEED rating. As community leaders, this only makes sense. One of the lesser know facts about the LEED system is that you don't have to build a new building or even renovate an old one to become LEED certified. The LEED for Existing Buildings rating system provides guidelines for operations and maintenance that will make an existing building more efficient.

I am reminded of this because I got a message today from president of the US Green Building Council today with an Earth Day challenge for every member:
I’d like to challenge each and every member of USGBC to identify an existing building within your own portfolio to green. Start with the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance checklist, identify the low-cost/no-cost improvements, and get on the path to greater gains.
The challenge is especially interesting because he poses it in the context of the economic downturn, asking "Has the economic crisis crushed the green movement?" The answer is "No!" Rather, it is a real opportunity to talk about the economic value of going green.
Adobe Systems Inc. is saving $1.2 million annually and getting a 121% ROI on their commitment to green operations and maintenance. How much can you put back in your bottom line?
Information about LEED for Existing Buildings is available here: LEED for Existing Buildings. The checklist is here: LEED EB/OM Checklist. (Note that the checklist is the current version which will be replaced April 27th with the roll out of LEED Version 3.0.)

April 15, 2009

African American Museum Architects Selected

A consortium of four firms, referred to as the Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, has been selected to design the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on one of the world's most prominent sites between the Museum of American History and the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

The selection process was based on a design competition that drew entries from Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Foster + Partners, and Moshe Safdie among others. It is difficult to understand the selected design from the renderings--frankly, the others look more dramatic--but the winning concept is grounded in an understanding that the role of the museum on the Mall is more than a monumental chronicle of African American history, but rather a place to celebrate and explore African American history and culture, a deeply thoughtful response to the program. This museum is long overdue. Congratulations to the winning team!

A few more photos are available at the Smithsonian press office's web site. Additional background information about the project can be found at the museum's site.

April 7, 2009

New approaches to humidity control emerging

The NY Times today has an interesting piece on some new thinking about the role of humidity control in conservation. While they don't go so far as to say 70/50 is dead, there appear to be some new approaches, the simplest being to use more humidity controlled cases and the most interesting being a move towards "smart ventilation," which is essentially going back to how it used to be done before we had elaborate, and now increasingly expensive, HVAC systems. Rediscovering these inexpensive and effective strategies, oddly enough, appears to be the real challenge.

Of course, museums with limited budgets have been finding ways to keep humidity stable for years (fluctuations cause the most damage to sensitive artifacts), the simplest being to seal the space to prevent atmospheric changes from immediately affecting the storage area.

Update:  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.