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Subject: Air fresheners and incense

Air fresheners and incense

From: Tom Dixon <tom.dixon>
Date: Friday, April 20, 2001
Carol Brynjolfson <carolb [at] vanmuseum__bc__ca>

>We will be exhibiting a travelling show next month and have just
>learned that it uses spray air fresheners (Glade?) to provide clues
>to visitors in two separate areas.  The use of the scent is said to
>be integral to the exhibit.  The air freshener is lavishly sprayed
>onto fabric, at the beginning of each day.  Spraying smaller amounts
>at more frequent intervals is apparently difficult without being
>caught in the act by visitors.  In addition, they would like to burn
>incense ...

The use of scents in commercial spaces, especially casinos and
restaurants, has shot through the roof in recent years and is very
common and fascinating technology. This is often done in the
presence of computers which can be very sensitive to smoke which
causes circuit boards to fail. In a museum environment with constant
HVAC, I wouldn't anticipate problems to nearby objects from the air
freshener sprayed on fabrics--but do an Oddy test and check it
out--but some of your guests might react in a negative way.  As to
renewing them mid day, just find an appropriate place to spray
replacement clothes (like outdoors or in a spray cupboard) or do
extra ones before public opening and keep them in sealed bags, then
discretely replace them as necessary.  Alternately, use the old "Air
Wick" concept and have a jar of the freshener which feeds up through
a wick--and cover it at night.

We have had several requests for incense in exhibitions.  I'm even
more concerned about the fire hazard than smoke. The particulate
matter is easy to control by containing the incense and filtering
the smoke through ultra fine stainless steel mesh with spun
polyester used as a smoke filter. Since we have a VESDA smoke
detection system and are charged considerable amounts of money for
false fire alarms, I put it to artists that if their incense sets
off the detector and the fire department comes, they have to pay the
bill of many hundreds of dollars. To date, none has been willing to
take the chance.

An alternative to incense may be low heat, electric "aromatherapy"
pots in which a few drops of essential oil is warmed.  These are not
a significant fire risk.  I tested the warmed oils for volatiles
using filter paper and couldn't see any deposit after several days
continuous use.  If the artist can be shifted to this technology,
I'd be quite comfortable.  We have used them in two exhibitions
without any problem.

I'd be interested to know exactly how they deploy scents in casinos.
I saw a BBC documentary about gambling where the use of scents was
discussed and they claimed profit increases of up to 40%.  We have a
huge casino complex near our gallery and it is a constant source of
display, lighting and security ideas.  I just know if there is a
buck in scents, we will adopt the technology for our restaurant,
book shop, exhibition shop and function room--so I might as well get
a grip on the technology choices now rather than wait until its

Tom Dixon
Chief Conservator
National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne Australia

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:56
                  Distributed: Monday, April 23, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-56-005
Received on Friday, 20 April, 2001

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