Effects of High Humidity and Low Humidity in Museums and Art Gallery

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Effects of High Humidity and Low Humidity in Museums and Art Gallery

Optimal humidity levels in art galleries and museums play an integral role in the protection of artistic creations. Excess humidity in these spaces could lead to mold growth and pest infestation, while low RH levels cause the artwork to dry out, become brittle, and ultimately break.

It’s, therefore, imperative to determine the ideal humidity levels in the museums and art galleries.

What Are Artwork and Exhibits Made of?

Before you read about the impact of high and low humidity in art galleries, it is important to understand why artwork is subject to damage when exposed to excess moisture or overly dry air. Artwork usually comprises organic substances, such as cotton, silk, wool, wood, and leather. These materials are hygroscopic and will draw moisture from the air or release water to dry environments.

Ceramics and glass are also used to make artwork and might bend or break when exposed to extreme humidity levels. Other artistic products feature compounds or chemicals that might react with each other when the air is too humid or dry.

Effects of High Humidity

You might have visited a museum or art gallery only to discover that they’re locking people out because they want to limit crowds. Admittedly, you could have been denied entry because the management needed to see what everyone is doing inside the gallery. Another compelling reason is the high humidity that occurs due to large congregations.

An influx of people, especially on rainy days, might significantly raise the levels of humidity and harm the artwork in countless ways. When the surrounding air becomes oversaturated, it could cause cracks on the surface of the artwork, especially those consisting of glass. Excess moisture in the air can also make acids and chemicals to break down or react, and ultimately harm the pieces of art. You can also Read here to know some simple tricks to damp proof your art room.

Have you ever come across a rusted metal sculpture in an art gallery? The sculpture may have turned black or green due to exposure to high humidity for prolonged periods.

Wood is another substance that cannot escape the wrath of excessive humidity. Most artistic products comprising hardwood are well furnished to ensure longevity. However, the wood will ultimately give in to the moisture in the surrounding air and warp. It is also not uncommon to see hazing on the finish if the wooden pieces of art are continuously exposed to high humidity.

The Impact of Low Humidity

Just like high humidity levels, dry air can affect pieces of art adversely. Excessively low moisture levels might cause artwork to shrink and take a different shape from its original version. Also, overly dry air can cause cracks on the pieces of art, especially those comprising wood. The finish on these items can also brittle and look different from how they were created. Besides, wooden artwork might warp if continuously exposed to dry air.

Metal inlays, marquetry, and paint might also become loose and detach when the levels of humidity in the surrounding air are too low. The situation is even worse when it comes to artwork made of paper or papyrus; these will simply lose the writings, and with time, get torn. Artwork that contains hair or silk can also become brittle and break when the indoor air is too dry. Pottery and terracotta are also among prime objects in an art gallery or museum that might crack due to excessively low humidity levels.

Effects of Fluctuations in Humidity

From the precedent, extremely high and low humidity levels may destroy pieces of art. But did you know that frequent humidity fluctuations might also cause stress on hygroscopic art pieces and eventually make them break or lose their shape? Well, artwork tends to contract and expand repeatedly when humidity levels rise and fall frequently.

Oil paintings are good examples of artwork that can flake when subjected to regular changes in humidity levels. Blisters and cracks are also not uncommon when relative humidity levels are continuously changing. Such expansion and contraction may cause unwanted changes in the dimensions and shapes of artwork. While paints and dyes tend to fade but can be easily replaced, metals could corrode and wood products might break and thus get irreversible damage.

How to Maintain Optimal Humidity Conditions in Art Galleries and Museums

From the precedent, extremely low, high, and unstable humidity levels might cause quick deterioration in pieces of art. Which means that you need to check and control the levels of moisture in your art gallery.

Veranda-Interiors website has loads of commercial dehumidifiers that can help maintain optimal humidity and to protect master pieces in the art galleries. They have tested dehumidifiers that runs longer and have fast dehumidification capacity, particularly when humidity levels are high. To get the best results in optimizing the humidity level in art gallery check out the Verenda Interiors reviews to know what dehumidifier can best suit your need. You might also want to limit the people entering in to the gallery as they breathe out moisture, especially if the gallery is located in a hot and humid area. Sufficient ventilation also plays a vital role in controlling the amount of moisture in your indoor air.

Conversely, get a humidifier to add moisture into the air when the indoor environment is too dry. Just like with the dehumidifier, ensure that you install an appropriately-sized humidifier depending on the size of your museum or gallery for optimal results. Remember that most exhibits or artwork are displayed on the walls, as opposed to the center. You will, therefore, want to run the humidifiers near the walls.

While at it, be sure to select the right appliance, whether for humidification or dehumidification purposes. Reading reviews online might help you determine which humidifier or dehumidifier is good for you.

Also, consider trying out steam humidification, especially in the wintery months when the air is typically dry. Heat buckets of water and let the steam evaporate into the surrounding air.


Both extremely high and low humidity conditions tend to interfere with the mineral contents of pieces of art and eventually cause damage. For example, dry conditions might result in the formation of crystals on the surfaces of artwork, stain the exterior, or cause flaking. On other hand, overly wet conditions might cause saline compounds in the artwork to absorb water and lead to reactions and irreversible damage. It’s, therefore, imperative to maintain appropriate levels of indoor moisture in your art gallery or museum, which is where dehumidifiers and humidifiers come in handy.

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