Humidity and Art: Moisture Damage to Artwork

 

What can humidity do to art and artifacts?

Humidity can cause a variety of issues with art and artifacts if not monitored properly and addressed quickly. 

Form changes

As the air’s humidity increases and decreases, many materials respond by changing their physical form. Depending on the medium, humidity could cause bending and warping, cracks and splits, small breaks or separation of pieces. 

Chemical changes

A dangerous humidity level could also affect an artifact or piece of art on a chemical level. Metal pieces could experience corrosion, paper could turn to a yellow shade, and dyes could fade on fabrics and other materials.

Mold

If the relative humidity level is high enough, mold and fungi growth could begin to occur.

What do we do?

Museums and conservation labs take extra precautions to monitor and manage the amount of water in the air within storage spaces. Special equipment can be purchased that reads the humidity level of the space and provides continual data that can be monitored remotely from any computer or via phone app. 

However, just because a piece of art or artifact may be affected by humidity, many of these issues caused by humidity can be treated by a professional conservator (depending on the specifics of the situation). It is always best to check with a professional conservator when preparing precious art or artifacts for storage or before trying to clean or repair humidity damage on your own.

 

Credit: Philadelphia Museum of Art

 
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