The Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University has a long tradition of promoting and maintaining high standards of care for their collection of more than 13 million objects. Recently, an analysis of the current environmental conditions in the three primary museum buildings— Peabody Museum of Natural History, Kline Geology Laboratory, and the Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center—showed that the stability of environmental conditions and efficiency in air-handling systems are poorly constrained. An analysis of energy use in climate control showed that the Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center, the most modern building of the complex, is the least energy-efficient of the three and one of the least energy-efficient museum buildings at Yale University. The Yale Peabody Museum, in collaboration with the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, evaluated the current climate control strategy with an eye toward achieving a more practical and responsible approach, which considers the historic character of the buildings, high cost of climate control, and sensitivity to energy sustainability. This is a key mission of the University, as outlined in the Yale Sustainability Plan 2025. The main element in the transformation to a new strategy of climate management is the assessment of climate-related risks to collections. Our assessment indicates that degradation of chemically unstable polymers is the process that dominates loss of value of those collections due to climate- related risks. It is estimated that chemical degradation processes have approximately two orders of magnitude larger impact on collection value than the degradation of pyrite and pyrite-containing materials and even more than pest damage. Other climate-related processes are relatively negligible in effect. These findings allow us to change the strategy of climate control, giving priority to maintaining low temperature in rooms housing collections made of organic materials and relaxing the range of allowable relative humidity parameters. The new strategy includes a shift from climate control to climate management, including: dual set-point (deadband) controllers to reduce energy consumption and lower CO2 emissions, nightly shutdowns of the air-handling system serving dry collections in a modern building, broader thermal criteria, and a reduction of the amount of fresh air introduced to the buildings. These will be implemented sequentially. Progress and outcomes will be the focus of a subsequent article.
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