Pollutant is a mysterious agent. It is infiltrating your museum from the outside, but can surprise you by been in your display case or even been released by your loved objects. It shows up as old known problem but can hit on the back of your ego with unexpected damages on objects while you have done everything to prevent it. Three speakers from different time zones will talk about their experiences on pollutant control and monitoring followed by a Q&A session.

David Thickett: Managing pollutant gases

Pollutant gases can rapidly deteriorate some objects, whilst others are unaffected. Many gases can be detected and so far, 40 have been reported to damage objects. Detection methods have suffered from being expensive, but costs are reducing and low tech indicators are available. Interpretation of damaging and ‘safe’ levels is needed to act on measurements. There are several options to reduce the impact of pollutant gases on sensitive collections. A decision support tool has been developed to aid in measurement, assessment and mitigation for the four most commonly reported pollutant gases and will be presented. It is available to download (under guidance notes/management of showcases)

More explanatory text is available here

Jean Tétreault: Pollutant control guidelines: past and present

Since the late 1970’s, the conservation community has set standards or guidelines to help museums manage the pollutant level in their institutions. This lecture will briefly review some of these guidelines and will show in more detail the latest guidelines developed for museum chapter in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 2019 handbook. These guidelines were also included in the latest CCI technical bulletin #37 on Control of Pollutants in Museums and Archives.

In January 2021, Jean gave a lecture on “Materials used in storage and exhibition” for the Centro de Investigación y Conservación del Patrimonio – UTEC, Peru.

Lisa Addison: Monitoring of smoke during the 2019 bushfires

Compared to many cities in the world, Canberra has less outdoor pollution because heavy manufacturing industries are not present. Most of the NGA’s pollutant problems have been generated internally from building materials, activities, and some artworks. That was, until 20th December 2019 when bushfires in surrounding areas blanketed Canberra in thick smoke for approximately a month. The smoke was so concentrated that Canberra was ranked at the top of the polluted major cities worldwide for 16 days during this time.

Significant amounts of smoke and ash entered the NGA building on New Year’s Eve 2019, despite many actions already being taking to reduce smoke ingress and keep the building open to visitors. NGA conservators implemented the collection incident response to smoke in the gallery working closely with the air conditioning team to mitigate the risks with a range of practical measures.

Numerous resources about the issue of pollutants can be found on the Indoor Air Quality Working Group website

Tuesday 31 August 2021


Registrations have now closed

David Thickett is Senior Conservation Scientist at English Heritage and has worked on a number of pollution related problems in several collections and several research projects in this area.

Jean Tétreault is a Senior Conservation Scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute. He serves as an advisor and researcher on environmental guidelines for the care of collections, and display and storage products. Publication of the author can be found in Research

Lisa Addison is the Preventive Conservator at the National Gallery of Australia where she applies and promotes the guidelines and standards for air quality for collection care within a dynamic gallery environment.