Successful museum design encompasses a number of challenges requiring knowledge and expertise in acoustical soundscapes, audio-visual technology, lighting solutions, and security measures. Equally as important is commissioning systems to ensure mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems function as required the sensitive museum environment.
Acoustical control and soundscapes enhance patron comfort and the museum experience. Controlling reverberation and background noise improves speech intelligibility allowing patrons to more easily enjoy audio exhibits, understand docents, participate in interactive exhibits, and communicate in meeting and function spaces. The architectural shape and the acoustical finishes can be used to reflect or absorb sound giving the feeling of small intimate spaces or great volumes. By combining the natural acoustics with well-chosen music, street sounds, or sound effects, a New York street from 1900 comes to life, dinosaurs hide behind every turn, and an artist’s vision is heard as well as seen. In conjunction with the audio-visual systems, acoustical soundscapes enrich the interpretation connection by enveloping the patrons in the sounds of the exhibit.
Presentation audio-visual technology is now an integral part of the museum experience. Typical systems include audio and video presentation systems in auditoria and meeting rooms with the ability to support spoken word, light to medium musical reinforcement, visual presentations, and multimedia/film screenings with surround sound. Also common are background music, paging, and digital signage systems, including equipment that becomes a part of or gives critical information about permanent or temporary exhibits. Audio and video distribution systems allow source material (exhibit background information, directions, or even the exhibit itself) to be delivered to one or more displays mounted throughout the exhibit spaces.
A number of factors must be considered to achieve optimal lighting solutions in museums. Since museums preserve and display collections in a variety of media, lighting should be carefully selected to provide each object the visual prominence it deserves while providing for its conservation needs. With emerging technologies in luminaires, lighting design can now accomplish the lighting goals of the project, with respect to color accuracy and visual hierarchy, while protecting objects from damaging UV in a way that enhances the museum experience.
Another consideration is building exterior lighting. Museum exteriors are often designed to be works of art themselves. Facade lighting design strategies may be used to attract interest to what is on the inside, at night.
The inherent challenge in providing an overall museum security program is found in protecting visitors, personnel, and assets from potential threats while not diminishing the experience the museum brings to the visitor. A reliable security system is critical and will typically include an integrated system of intrusion detection, access control and alarm monitoring, video surveillance, intercom and 24/7 on-site or remote monitoring. Where the owner wants to switch off visible exterior lighting after normal business hours, infrared lighting can be paired with the exterior video surveillance cameras to provide energy efficient night time invisible lighting of the grounds and parking areas. Video analytics can be applied to these cameras to detect suspicious activity or unwanted behaviors (such as object left behind or virtual line crossing) and alert authorities.
Ensuring the facility’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems function and interact properly is crucial in not only providing a pleasant experience for the patron but also in protecting a museum’s priceless art and objects. The items housed within the museum’s walls are particularly sensitive to temperature, moisture, and light; therefore, the ability of the facility’s systems to continuously maintain the proper indoor environment is critical for proper conservation. Commissioning is the process that ensures the facility is constructed and operated according to the owner’s project requirements and the design documents. During commissioning of the facility, individual pieces of equipment are exercised through all modes of operation including the failure of devices and components. The individual pieces of equipment are then collected and tested as an entire system. Finally, each system is then collected and the facility is tested as a whole to guarantee the systems perform interactively to provide a stable and comfortable environment.