Exhibition Lighting

Exhibition lighting has undergone major transformations in the past decade. Museums must now adapt to a revolution in lighting technology driven by pressures to reduce energy costs and become more sustainable. Allowing visitors to view their collections is a core role of museums; however, light can cause damage to some objects, which violates the goal of preservation. This conflict between two fundamental functions of museums creates a lighting dilemma. Situation-specific resolutions to this problem involve careful consideration of many practical issues:

  • object sensitivity
  • object visibility
  • lamps and fixtures
  • lighting policy

This workshop touches on each of these issues and the sources of information for making educated lighting decisions.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • assess the risks associated with lighting and estimate the future fading of objects
  • specify the intensity and quality of light required by viewers for various tasks
  • analyze the visibility and aesthetic aspects of lighting design
  • understand the different lamps and fixtures available
  • understand issues related to retrofitting a lighting system


Object sensitivity and visibility issues

Colourants have different sensitivities to light exposure, and visitors have specific visual constraints. A balance is discussed for visibility and preservation.

Prediction of fading

Principles for predicting light fading are illustrated through the use of simple tables or equations and also with a free user-friendly computer program.

Lighting policy

A lighting policy is a tool that helps museums determine the proper conditions (light level and exposure period) for their objects.

Lamps, fixtures and accessories: design considerations

An overview of conventional museum lighting systems is presented along with important factors to consider for LED retrofits.

Target audience

Anyone who installs or contributes to the lighting decisions in museums, galleries and archives. This includes staff responsible for preventive conservation as well as exhibition designers and collection managers.


English and French

Enrollment limits

Minimum 10, maximum 20

Special requirements

The host institution must provide:

  • a meeting room where people can work in groups of about four
  • a flipchart or whiteboard for the instructors
  • a laptop and a projector (and any electric extension cords needed for their installation), and a projection screen (or white wall)
  • a table for the projector (if necessary) and a table for CCI materials

In addition, it would be advantageous to have access to exhibition spaces to view and discuss some of the lighting concepts.

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