Following #AnglesMatter and #GoldenHour, today is international #MuseumSelfieDay (If you don’t know these hashtags, google them, it’s a thing). Museum Selfie Day combines the ancient history of the world with the modern trend of taking selfies. Mar Dixon, a project coordinator and enthusiast of museums, came up with the idea in 2015 after visiting several museums with her daughter. Now, museums worldwide participate in the campaign on Twitter and Instagram and some even partially lift their ban on photography for the day.
What selfies and museums have in common is the search for the perfect lighting! While you may use reflectors, flashes and ring lights to take a photo or wait for the ‘golden light’ of a sunset, exhibits present lighting experts with a completely different challenge.
On the one hand, curators of exhibitions, galleries and museums want to accentuate the special features of each exhibit. While on the other hand, the rooms must have lighting that ensures safety and accessibility for visitors. Lighting in museums is comparable to a theatre’s stage lighting: It is a complex interplay of light and shadow, hard and soft light, brightness and darkness. For example, sculptures and paintings with reliefs are staged with several spotlights to highlight their structures while the walls of photo galleries must be illuminated almost evenly.
Another challenge is the fact that some museum pieces must be stored and displayed under certain environmental conditions. This is because touch, carbon dioxide, dust, light, moisture and heat can all damage valuable old objects and accelerate their decay. Thus, some exhibits are presented in showcases for protection. Hanging a halogen lamp here is taboo: Both the radiating heat and the attempt to change the bulb could destroy the exhibit.