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Monday, Session 2: Lighting and Exhibition

“Spread or sacrifice: dilemma for lighting policies” presented by Agnes Brokerhof, Pieter Kuiper, Steph Scholten 


Agnes Brokerhop speaking about 'spread vs. sacrifice' on Monday
Image courtesy of Sagita M. Sunara

The session opened with the presentation “Spread or sacrifice: dilemma for lighting policies” by Agnes Brokerhof.  She spoke about the experiment conducted by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the University of Amsterdam testing if there is a preference for either spreading the fading over the collection or sacrificing one object to preserve the others. In the context of the exhibition “Looking for Van Santen & the colours of the Golden Age” at the University of Amsterdam, members of the public were asked how they would want to pass on the collection of historic hand coloured maps to future generations. The same test was repeated with heritage professionals. Replica maps with different degrees of light fading were produced, the participants could compare faded maps with non-faded throughout the test. The results of this experiment suggest that when people do not see the loss of colour though fading, there is a preference to spread the fading over the collection. Yet, when the colour difference is noticeable and there is an awareness of the damage, there is a change towards a preference for sacrificing one artefact in order to save the collection. There is a tipping point when the fading becomes noticeable and perceived as bad.

Key points of this test for collection management: 1. Heritage professionals and members of the public have similar perception of fading. 2. Colour change monitoring has to become a standard conservation protocol. 3. Sacrifice of one or few objects is necessary if we are to preserve treasures. - The importance of significance assessment is apparent. 4. Make our strategy and decisions transparent for future generations – our views on what is sacrificial vs. precious do change.

Q&A: A question about managing curatorial demands highlighted the fact that the function, significance and importance of colour play a role in these decisions. The seemingly binary opposition of  'spread or sacrifice' was aptly called by the presenter to be in reality a very 'many shades of grey'. Spread fading can't be reversed, neither the sacrifices resurrected.

Author: Luba Nurse