Things to Consider When choosing Lighting for Museum and Galleries - BrightLec Electrical | Leeds Based Electrical Contractors
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Things to Consider When choosing Lighting for Museum and Galleries

Lighting a museum or art gallery requires a different approach to lighting an office or apartment block, since it will be required to highlight certain features.

From the materials of the objects you’re displaying to issues regarding light and heat damage, there are dozens of aspects which must be kept in mind when effectively lighting artwork and valuable objects. Here are two of the most important ones:

The Materials and Shape of the Objects You’re Lighting:

The materials of the objects you’re displaying will dictate the types of lighting you’re using to a large degree, often meaning that a single gallery space will require multiple types of light and lighting sources, causing untold headaches for gallery owners.

For example, you’ll find that oil paintings are troublesome to light because of the spectral highlights created when hit with intense light, meaning they demand a more diffused, broad based light source. That’s in contrast to acrylic paintings, which don’t suffer from flare problems, and can be lit by any source.

Sculptures, meanwhile, have their own lighting considerations to keep in mind, with each requiring a unique lighting set-up to really get the best out of them. Keep in mind that bronze, marble, concrete and steel all have their own reflective properties which have to be considered when lighting a space; experimentation may be required to discover the best lighting practice.

The Type of Light Source You’re Using:

Lighting sources aren’t created equal, and though they all work to illuminate, their effects on artwork and valuable objects is important to note.

  • LED Lights – LED lights are, today, generally preferred for displaying valuable artwork. Despite their higher initial cost, LEDs are superior in the fact that they don’t emit ultraviolet or infrared rays – both of which can be harmful to artwork and valuable objects.
  • Halogen Lights – Halogen lights produce the purest whitest light available, but they also produce a large amount of heat. In a gallery or museum space that heat can result in higher humidity, causing secondary damage, along with low-level heat damage to the exhibits.
  • Incandescent Lights – Incandescent lighting options bathe objects in a warmer light than other light sources that bring it out colours like yellow and red in art. Most professional gallery spaces avoid incandescent lights for this reason.
  • Fluorescent Lights – Fluorescent lighting is generally avoided in museum and gallery settings because of the colour distorting effects of the light. Additionally, high levels of ultraviolet light are emitted by fluorescent light, causing accelerated fading in artwork and printed media.


Each of these light sources can be mounted in several different ways, including in so-called ‘track lighting’ arrangements, which are often favoured by galleries, museums and private collectors for their flexibility.

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