Sustainable Microclimates was founded in 2017 by conservator of cultural heritage and conservation scientist James Crawford, who has an in-depth understanding of how the quality of indoor air degrades vulnerable materials in our cultural heritage. James puts his skills to use assisting museums, art galleries and historic houses care for their precious collections by transforming the performance of their exhibit showcases and by empowering more responsible use of their building energy.
By applying his knowledge on how air moves, James was instrumental in solving design and construction problems that enabled one of Europe’s largest museum showcase makers to produce their most airtight model yet. James also demonstrated that showcases with frameless doors can be sealed just as well as desktop cases – all while maintaining security, aesthetics and staff accessibility.
James takes a fresh approach to tackling persistent microclimate problems and is a British Standards Institution Committee Member, through which he contributes to the development of a European kitemark standard on the technical specifications for designing, building, operating and maintaining museum-grade exhibition cabinets: European Committee for Standardization/Technical Committee 346 – Conservation of Cultural Heritage – Showcase Working Group.
James regularly presents his work on understanding and improving local preservation environments at museum and heritage science conferences.
Sustainable Microclimates helps art galleries, museums and private collectors look after our cultural heritage treasures so they can be enjoyed by present and future generations.
Our goal is to ensure heritage microclimates are actually sustainable: ecologically and economically. Today, government funders are applying pressure to cut the sector’s energy usage in order to curb costs and greenhouse gas emissions, so the big dilemma faced by museums and art galleries is how they can limit heating and air conditioning without damaging their works on display and in storage. In addition, the users of unpowered showcases are still finding they’re having to use models, old and new, that draw in and trap dust, and rapidly consume costly sorbents that are labour-draining to maintain.
We help by optimising the effectiveness and efficiency of local display and storage enclosures that run without mains electricity, using novel technologies that work smarter to keep the “good air” in, save on building energy, and reduce carbon footprints. Why waste time, money and energy conditioning the sorbents in showcases and the air in vast and leaky buildings, when we can make the most of the local air within these potentially protective cocoons?
Don’t just take our word for it…
“I have been a collections care professional for more than thirty years and still see a massive gap between showcase users, providers, researchers and specifiers which has led to enormous inefficiency, inappropriate use of available funds and failure to protect and preserve collections. James works from a sustainability position, which universally appeals to the above groups and he manages to unify the different groups through the terminology he uses and by understanding all of their different viewpoints. His guidance is primarily practical and not overly scientific and his approaches are easily understood and can be acted on by curators, conservators and many others tasked with caring for and displaying valuable and vulnerable collections.
The last three decades have seen major advancement in understanding and specifying for inert, close-sealing display cases able to hold a stable relative humidity and pollution-neutralizing micro-climate. Experimentation and publications from the British Museum, Museum of London and many other sources should have led to nationally accepted specifications and standards for showcase production. Yet the principles established seem to get lost through the specification, design and manufacturing processes. This is where James’s approach seems to work and his audiences now have access to genuinely useful guidance and can have a greater understanding of what to acquire and how to test and improve display cases they are already using.”
- David Singleton – Preventative Conservator, Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives