Project

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Pollution Pathways. A new method to quantify effects and costs of the reduction of air pollution in libraries and archives

Applicant Mentzel Elke
Number 132247
Funding scheme DORE project funding
Research institution Hochschule der Künste Bern Berner Fachhochschule
Institution of higher education Berne University of Applied Sciences - BFH
Main discipline Arts
Start/End 01.10.2010 - 31.08.2012
Approved amount 157'247.00
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Keywords (4)

air pollution; risk management; art conservation; paper

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
In this project we will estimate the loss of value of paper-based collections in 100 years induced by air pollution. We aim at answering two open questions in the field of art conservation:
how the measures that institutions have in place to decrease the effects of indoor pollution compare in terms of their efficiency and cost;the influence of these measures on the loss of value of paper-based collections.
Air pollution accellerates paper decay. In the last 20 years a number of studies have investigated the effect of both outdoor generated pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide, and of indoor generated pollutants, like acetic acid, on paper. These studies have raised awareness in the field of art conservation towards the hazard posed by air pollution. As a consequence target levels for different gases have been inserted in international standards for paper conservation. Therefore museums, libraries, and archives are investing increasing financial and human resources in pollution prevention. But do all these efforts pay-off?To reduce the risk of indoor pollution, some institutions use active coal or chemical filters in the air conditioning units. Filters cause costs associated with acquisition, regular change, and added energy consumption. We want to understand if this trend is profitable for cultural heritage institutions. We know that paper-based institutions have in place alternative measures which reduce the effect of air pollution. These measures do not target directly pollution but contribute to the reduction of its effects. Examples are: the practice of not opening windows in the depots, the use of boxes to store paper materials, mass deacidification, digitization and microfilming of paper items. How do these alternative measures compare with the use of gas filters as far as their efficiency and cost? We will perform this comparison by looking at their effect on the reduction of the loss of collection value. For paper collections the loss of value induced by air pollution is the increase of yellowness and brittleness and the resulting mechanical failure of paper. Cultural heritage institutions aim at reducing the loss of value of the collection saveguarding its accessbility. Still, libraries and archives in Switzerland and abroad, do not usually perform the necessary analysis to reach this aim. Reason for this is the complexity of the models proposed so far and the limited resources of the institutions. Therefore decisions concerning the control of air pollution are either based on common sense or on the application of the best available technology, in both cases with the risk of engaging in investments of uncertain benefits.
In this project we will to develop a new method to estimate the loss of collection value due to air pollution. We call this method the Pollution Pathways Method. It is composed of three modules. The first module is a diagram representing for the specific institution the causal chain of mechanisms connecting the source of pollution to the final loss of value of the paper objects. Reduction measures restrain or interrupt this chain and are represented as barriers in the diagram. We can identify three subsequent mechanisms leading to loss of value: transport of pollutants in air, chemical reactions in paper and use of object. The second module is a mathematical model describing these mechanisms. Each of them will be described by equations depending on parameters like the effectiveness of the reduction measures. Our partner artemis-control AG, a company specialized in the delivery of contamination control projects for storage and production under clean conditions, will contribute to the transport in air section. The three mechanisms will be connected in a final formula expressing the collection loss of value as a function of the effectivenesses of the reduction measures. The third module is an institution-specific database collecting the effectiveness and cost of all the reduction measures present in the institution. The three modules together will allow to define the actual loss of collection value due to air pollution and to identify the best strategy to reduce it.
The Pollution Pathways Method will be applied to major Swiss libraries: the Swiss National Library and the Library of Geneva. These institutions have very different installations: while the first one is located in a low polluted area and has a new underground depot with air conditioning system and gas filters, the second one has depots located in an historical building, naturally ventilated in a highly polluted town. The comparison of the results obtained in these two cases plus the comparison of a similar analysis developed in the two major paper-based institutions in Holland, who are international partners of the project, will hopefully allow the generalization of the method to a conservation management tool applicable to many paper collections in Switzerland and abroad. Finally, we plan to hold a workshop at the Berne University of the Arts to teach collection managers, curators and conservator-restorers how to implement the method in their own institution.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Project partner

Publications

Publication
Chemical air filtration in archives and libraries reconsidered
Di Pietro Giovanna, Ligterink Frank, Porck Henk, deBruin Gerrit (2016), Chemical air filtration in archives and libraries reconsidered, in Studies in Conservation, 61(5), 245-254.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
GEZOND Papier Netherlands (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Indoor Air Quality 2012 Talk given at a conference The limited impact of acetic acid in libraries and archives. 17.06.2012 London, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Di Pietro Giovanna;
International symposium and workshop on cultural property risk analysis Talk given at a conference The Pollution Pathway Method 14.09.2011 Lissabon, Portugal Di Pietro Giovanna;
IADA Konfernz 2011 Talk given at a conference The Pollution Pathway Method 31.08.2011 Bern, Switzerland Di Pietro Giovanna;


Knowledge transfer events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Pollution Pathway in Switzerland (National Library) and Holland (Royal Library and National Archive) 29.08.2011 Bern, Switzerland

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: radio, television Il Giardino di Albert RSI Radio 2 e televisione Italian-speaking Switzerland 2012

Abstract

In this project we will estimate the loss of value of paper-based collections in 100 years induced by air pollution. We aim at answering two open questions in the field of art conservation: how the measures that institutions have in place to decrease the effects of indoor pollution compare in terms of their efficiency and cost;the influence of these measures on the loss of value of paper-based collections.Air pollution accellerates paper decay. In the last 20 years a number of studies have investigated the effect of both outdoor generated pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulfur dioxide, and of indoor generated pollutants, like acetic acid, on paper. These studies have raised awareness in the field of art conservation towards the hazard posed by air pollution. As a consequence target levels for different gases have been inserted in international standards for paper conservation. Therefore museums, libraries, and archives are investing increasing financial and human resources in pollution prevention. But do all these efforts pay-off?To reduce the risk of indoor pollution, some institutions use active coal or chemical filters in the air conditioning units. Filters cause costs associated with acquisition, regular change, and added energy consumption. We want to understand if this trend is profitable for cultural heritage institutions. We know that paper-based institutions have in place alternative measures which reduce the effect of air pollution. These measures do not target directly pollution but contribute to the reduction of its effects. Examples are: the practice of not opening windows in the depots, the use of boxes to store paper materials, mass deacidification, digitization and microfilming of paper items. How do these alternative measures compare with the use of gas filters as far as their efficiency and cost? We will perform this comparison by looking at their effect on the reduction of the loss of collection value. For paper collections the loss of value induced by air pollution is the increase of yellowness and brittleness and the resulting mechanical failure of paper. Cultural heritage institutions aim at reducing the loss of value of the collection saveguarding its accessbility. Still, libraries and archives in Switzerland and abroad, do not usually perform the necessary analysis to reach this aim. Reason for this is the complexity of the models proposed so far and the limited resources of the institutions. Therefore decisions concerning the control of air pollution are either based on common sense or on the application of the best available technology, in both cases with the risk of engaging in investments of uncertain benefits.In this project we will to develop a new method to estimate the loss of collection value due to air pollution. We call this method the Pollution Pathways Method. It is composed of three modules. The first module is a diagram representing for the specific institution the causal chain of mechanisms connecting the source of pollution to the final loss of value of the paper objects. Reduction measures restrain or interrupt this chain and are represented as barriers in the diagram. We can identify three subsequent mechanisms leading to loss of value: transport of pollutants in air, chemical reactions in paper and use of object. The second module is a mathematical model describing these mechanisms. Each of them will be described by equations depending on parameters like the effectiveness of the reduction measures. Our partner artemis-control AG, a company specialized in the delivery of contamination control projects for storage and production under clean conditions, will contribute to the transport in air section. The three mechanisms will be connected in a final formula expressing the collection loss of value as a function of the effectivenesses of the reduction measures. The third module is an institution-specific database collecting the effectiveness and cost of all the reduction measures present in the institution. The three modules together will allow to define the actual loss of collection value due to air pollution and to identify the best strategy to reduce it.The Pollution Pathways Method will be applied to major Swiss libraries: the Swiss National Library and the Library of Geneva. These institutions have very different installations: while the first one is located in a low polluted area and has a new underground depot with air conditioning system and gas filters, the second one has depots located in an historical building, naturally ventilated in a highly polluted town. The comparison of the results obtained in these two cases plus the comparison of a similar analysis developed in the two major paper-based institutions in Holland, who are international partners of the project, will hopefully allow the generalization of the method to a conservation management tool applicable to many paper collections in Switzerland and abroad. Finally, we plan to hold a workshop at the Berne University of the Arts to teach collection managers, curators and conservator-restorers how to implement the method in their own institution.
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