Behind the walls of the National Gallery lies a complex system that uses both sensors and blinds to blend artificial light and daylight, providing optimum viewing of the art whilst reducing energy consumption and damage from over exposure.
At the time of installation it was considered on the technological cutting edge, yet just a few years on the advancement of lighting technology is proving to be a game changer for museums and cultural institutions.
The past year has imposed a period of self-reflection and planning on organisations. In the face of financial short falls, many will be looking to futureproof their collections ahead of anticipated re-openings. Shoring up finances impacted by enforced closure will certainly be high on the agenda for a sector that has come to realise that government support is not guaranteed. Long term, cost cutting will doubtless be front of mind for museum finance teams up and down the country.
LED lighting has significantly reduced running costs for many TM Lighting clients. The firm’s work at Goodwood, for example, resulted in annual savings in excess of £4,000. This can be taken a step further, with the installation of Bluetooth technology equipped with the potential to both enhance the visitor experience and further reduce costs. Put simply, Bluetooth is a game changer for the future of lighting artworks in public buildings.
At present, many major institutions like the National Gallery have hard wired control systems. This will inevitably change as an increasing number recognise the dexterity of the technology and in line with more and more visitors expecting a mobile experience that is relevant, convenient and seamless.
This is where beacons – small wireless sensors that communicate with Bluetooth-enabled smart devices – can augment the experience, triggering app content when someone is in range. If a visitor pauses to take a closer look at an eye-catching painting, their phone pings with information on the work, film footage of the artist and web links to further reading.
In a low traffic gallery or one where light sensitive materials are on display, this can go a step further and adjust light levels for an optimum viewing experience. This reduces energy consumption and light exposure to the artworks, not to mention sustainability of both the environment and the collection.
Yet another perk of the technology is that a curator can receive automated data captured by the light fittings, recording how much light an artwork has received during an exhibition. Currently this is undertaken with manual calculations and carries with it the risk of human error.
Such schemes are relatively low cost to implement and can facilitate retrofitting new lighting systems into existing rooms by reducing the amount of rewiring, making it a viable option for historic buildings. In its basic form, it doesn’t require tech support to use barring integration into some curatorial applications where more expertise may be needed.
With the reopening of our cultural centres within reach, TM Lighting anticipates further momentum for Bluetooth and other wireless technologies as leadership teams count the cost of closure and look towards longer-term economies.