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Subject: Environmental control

Environmental control

From: Charles S. Tumosa <cst>
Date: Monday, July 15, 1996
Re: The Appelbaum posting of July 11.

The Appelbaum posting contains several errors concerning the
research by the Smithsonian group of Tumosa, Mecklenburg, Erhardt
and McCormick-Goodhart. This group has been averaging 10
publications of related work per year and has delivered dozens of
lectures and papers and has participated in many symposia. The group
did not attend the AIC meeting in June because of decisions beyond
their control but did take an active part in the New York Symposium
and in a Symposium in Washington in August 1995. We have not refused
to participate in AIC meetings. For example, McCormick-Goodhart
delivered a detailed lecture on our environmental research at the
June '95 AIC meeting. Ms. Appelbaum was in attendance at this
lecture and others by us.

Over 100 people in some 20 countries have requested copies of our
recent and current research; Ms Appelbaum has never requested

Ms Appelbaum in her book states that it is unlikely that maintaining
a constant RH year round "would be worth the expense and trouble"
(p.39) and that maintaining an RH of 50% in winter requires "a
tremendous outlay of energy" (p.33). So it would seem that there is
money to be saved!

Her comment #3, that others have tried to duplicate our work and
failed, is sheer nonsense. We don't know of any conservation
research group trying to repeat our work but several universities
have adopted our methodology and approach with success. Ms Appelbaum
has never asked us for "hard" or any other type of data.

Many conservators realize that 50 +/-3% RH is not a hard and fast
requirement. It is, however, the type of number typically
recommended, as evidenced by the large number of institutions that
attempt to maintain such conditions.

Our recommendations are based on the study of large numbers of
materials including so-called "sensitive" materials. If, as
Appelbaum implies, each object is so unique that one cannot define
common physical and chemical characteristics, then there can be no
general museum environment but only an infinite series of
microenvironments. This is in contradiction to everyone's

We no more expected museum administrators to base their
recommendations on the press release than we would expect a doctor
to prescribe a drug based on a news clipping. Reading a headline or
press release is no substitute for serious intellectual inquiry. We
had expected some criticism of our results and conclusions; what has
surprised us is the visceral rather than intellectual nature of much
of the criticism.

We would be happy to talk to or supply copies of relevant articles
to anyone who is interested. At present there is considerable
mythology about the museum "standard" for environment. Our research
has shown that there is a wide range of acceptable RH variation
possible without damage to an object, that there can be seasonal
fluctuations, and that valuable resources (energy and money) can be
saved if a proper museum environment is implemented.

If anyone wishes to contact us, our e-mail is cst [at] cal__si__edu or by phone
at 301-238-3700 ext. 118. FAX at CAL is 301-238-3709.

Charles S. Tumosa
Marion F. Mecklenburg
David Erhardt
Mark McCormick-Goodhart

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:11
                  Distributed: Tuesday, July 16, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-11-002
Received on Monday, 15 July, 1996

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