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Grant number: PR-50192-14

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Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY 14623-5698)
Jean-Louis Bigourdan (Project Director: May 2013 to present)

Understanding Moisture Equilibrium for Humanities Collections: A New Path to Sustainable Humidity Control

Research into new ways of managing environmental conditions in collection spaces that could significantly reduce energy costs while providing safe environments for books, manuscripts, maps, prints, and other paper-based humanities materials. The Image Permanence Institute would study moisture equilibration rates for paper-based library materials and test new ways of managing relative humidity that could reduce the risks to collections from the most damaging conditions of summer humidity and winter dryness.

The thrust of this research is to quantify the potential of new approaches to seasonal management of humidity control, based on a full understanding of moisture equilibration processes for paper-based collections. Research will focus on the possibility that RH control can be used in a stepped or pulsed fashion to slow down the rate of moisture equilibration, thereby avoiding the most dangerous seasonal highs and lows. Specifically, better fundamental knowledge of equilibration behavior may allow identification of scenarios where seasonal peaks are not damaging, and scenarios for less expensive RH control aimed at 'slicing off' dangerous peaks. The research will quantify how materials' moisture content navigates between extreme RHs when exposed to either an uncontrolled seasonal humidity cycle, capped RH profile, stepped RH profile or pulsed RH profile. Research objectives are to quantify risks and benefits of these options in terms of preservation quality and potential energy savings.

Project fields:
Arts, Other

Research and Development

Preservation and Access

Total amounts:
$350,000 (approved)
$348,039 (awarded)

Grant period:
4/1/2014 – 9/30/2017