The Goulbourn Museum will be closed for the month of April while we undergo major renovations to upgrade the Museum’s ‘Environmental Envelope.’ 

The Museum and History Centre will be receiving a brand new HVAC system complete with air filtration, purification, and state-of-the-art climate controls. This project has been made possible thanks to the City of Ottawa Cultural Facilities Fund (Major Capital Development Project).

What is An Environmental Envelope?

In the museum world, an environmental envelope is the specific conditions relating to temperature, humidity, and air quality. Think of it as an invisible envelope around the museum, containing all the effects we want inside, while protecting it from the outside.

A structure with an inefficient HVAC system – lots of gaps and holes in the walls – has a ‘weak envelope.’ This is because outside conditions, like damp and cold air, will have an effect on the interior of the structure and the objects within. A weak envelope makes it difficult to maintain ideal museum conditions and air quality.

Conversely, a well sealed structure with excellent temperature and humidity controls is considered a ‘strong envelope.’ A strong envelope means it is easier to maintain proper air quality and climate conditions inside the museum. 

Why is the Envelope so Important?

The environmental envelope is incredibly important because climate and air quality play a major role in the health of the artefacts.

Take wood for example- if the conditions are too dry, like now during the winter, it might become dry and crack. If the conditions are too wet, think of a hot humid summer, wood might rot, warp, or develop mould. If the envelope is weak and unable to limit the extremes of temperature and humidity caused by the outside weather, the artefacts may be at risk.

Damages can even be caused by fluctuating conditions which might not otherwise be considered dangerous. The best example of this in Ottawa (literally!) on a daily basis are potholes in roads. As the road heats up and cools down from season to season, the materials expand and contract accordingly. Over time the shifting conditions can cause major physical damages as the materials are literally pulled apart and forced back together. The same principle applies to museum artefacts making correct AND stable environment conditions so critical to our operations.

Clean air is also essential! The most obvious risk of a weak envelope is the quantity of dust which enters the building and eventually settles on artefacts. This makes cleaning necessary which in turn means the artefacts risk sustaining wear through repeated contact, or even damages to artefacts which cannot be dusted through traditional means. Imagine how difficult it is trying to clean dust off a splintered, unsanded, wooden object with flaking paint.

Air quality is also critical because of minute, or even invisible, dangers to the artefacts. Harmful gaseous compounds, byproducts from car exhaust for example, can cause damage to an artefact as many of these form acidic compounds when they react with water in the air. Worse still, these compounds can then bind to dust, a double whammy caused by a weak envelope, which results in acidic dust slowly causing damage over time.

Environmental Envelopes- Not Just for Artefacts!

Unsurprisingly, what’s good for the artefacts is good for people too!

By improving our environmental envelope, we are ensuring your comfort and health are guaranteed every time you visit the Goulbourn Museum.

Don’t Dismay- We’ll See you in May!

We’re excited to showcase our brand new infrastructure. See you in May!