The safety of works of art is enhanced by a suitable environment. SAM's galleries are carefully managed to provide a very stable, moderate climate for the art year round.
- Though Seattle only gets an average of 71 sunny days per year, daylight and artificial lighting cause severe, irreversible damage to sensitive materials. In the museum, we restrict the amount of light that falls on these works of art and also rotate them regularly so that they are not exposed for too long.
- Pollutants and soiling from dust, handling and the atmosphere can damage art, so we monitor the air quality, control all fabrication and construction materials used in the museum and work with exhibition designers to provide suitable gallery casework and displays. We also keep a close eye on the art on display, dusting and examining art when the museum is closed to the public.
- To some creatures, art is food! Cellulose, wool, some colorants, wood and other organic materials are attractive food sources for many insects and other pests. SAM conservation staff is vigilant about avoiding, monitoring and recording pest activity. Since many materials come in and out of SAM every week, we need to have procedures to manage organic matter entering the galleries, whether in the form of art, display items or floral installations. View a list of plant materials allowed into the museum.
Conservation and Storage
Works of art that you see in the galleries at SAM are securely and gently held in place by brackets crafted by our expert mount-making department. These custom-made mounts enhance presentation and keep art safe while on display or during an earthquake. Look closely at the one thousand pieces of porcelain on show in SAM Downtown's Porcelain Room to see an impressive, yet very discreet, demonstration of the mount-makers’ skills.
Thousands of stored artworks also need to be kept safe and SAM collection care managers ensure that the storage furniture is optimal and provide safe tie-ins, storage mounts and enclosures for all the art that is not on display.
Each year many works of art are determined to require conservation treatment because they are physically unstable, in need of cleaning or otherwise unsuitable for display. SAM conservators study the art and consult with curators and other specialists to identify suitable treatments to remedy the problem. They sometimes also work with experts outside the museum to conserve the art.