Museum Lighting Guide
Areas To Consider
Lighting is vitally important when planning the layout of a museum or a specific exhibition. The right lighting can enhance the visitor’s experience and enjoyment. It can help bring large pieces such as sculptures or skeletons to life, make sure tiny details on small artefacts are visible, ensure information boards are easy to read, and help visitors navigate their way around the space.
Museum lighting needs to consider all the different ways that items are presented, and how the space might need to be altered in the future, as exhibitions change.
Our mini track lights work in the same way as our regularly-sized track lights, but their compact size makes them an effective solution for using inside cabinets. They can be used to directly highlight specific artefacts, or to give a general wash of light.
Exhibition Halls – Ambient Lighting
Ambient lighting is very important in creating the right environment. The best approach can vary from one exhibition hall or space to another, depending on the subject presented and the type of material on show. A hall dedicated to space, for example, might benefit from a totally different approach to a room detailing a historic battle. The right lighting can help immerse the visitor in the experience and subject matter.
Exhibition Halls – Accent Lighting
Museums display items of extremely varied size and scale. From specimen cases containing tiny insects, through to jewellery, pottery, and large-scale carvings, sculptures or even building fragments, museums need a range of accent lighting to cater to a wide range of possibilities. Track lighting can offer a solution to all of these requirements and is both highly customisable and adaptable.
Track lighting can be recessed, surface-mounted or suspended depending on layout and ceiling height. Recessed track gives a clean, uncluttered appearance where ceilings are lower. In larger spaces with high ceilings, such as atriums or double-height rooms, suspended track can bring the light level down to the required height, or illuminate larger objects.
A successful lighting scheme in a museum needs to consider how space is used, and how the visitor moves through it.
A museum might display artwork on the walls of an otherwise open room, have some spaces with a large exhibit at the centre, and others with display cabinets splitting the room into smaller areas. The lighting required will depend on this layout; ensuring each item is lit appropriately and helping signpost the visitor through the museum.
Other spaces such as hallways and foyers may require a different approach. Museums will often also have more commercial spaces, such as a gift shop, bookstore or cafe. We can work with you on an overall scheme that considers all of these aspects.
How to control lighting in each area can be considered at the same time as the layout. A single switch could control all of the lights in a room, or you could group lights to control them individually. Should lights always come on at 100% strength? Dimming can be useful to create the right atmosphere for special exhibitions or events.
Some pieces may require a different beam angle to create a narrow or more general wash of light. Lighting controls can help offer more flexibility, especially if exhibitions are often changed or touring exhibitions are hosted.
Colour Rendering Index (CRI)
Selecting lights with the right CRI level is particularly important for museum projects. The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) refers to how a light source affects the way colour is seen by the human eye, and how colour variations and shade are interpreted.
The index works on a scale from 1 to 100, and a high CRI level means that the lighting source will more accurately represent the true colours of an object or display. In a museum environment, lights with a CRI level above 90 are recommended for the best representation of colour and detail. Using low-CRI lights could leave exhibits looking dull and washed out, meaning visitors lose out on their full impact and detail.