“Lighting the Future to Preserve our Past”

MEEKER I Visitors to the White River Museum will notice the temporary relocation of the main entrance to the east side of the museum while the first phase of the new lighting renovation project commences. The museum remains open and welcomes visitors. Materials have arrived and will be installed in the near future, with a planned completion by late summer. Dan DeWitt of Weatherford Electric has been contracted for this project.
The Museum is the only curio-type museum in Colorado. A curio museum differs from conventional museums which generally feature only focused displays or dioramas of specific depictions and thus a relatively limited display of art and artifacts. The Germans have a term for such unique collections known as “Wunderkammer” meaning “all things wonderful.”
For many decades, pioneer families of Rio Blanco County have donated their priceless family art and artifacts or other memorabilia to be conserved and displayed by the White River Museum as a legacy for future generations to enjoy.
In the past few years, a serious concern has been raised about obsolete, harmful and ineffective conventional fluorescent lighting used in the White River Museum. Conventional fluorescent lighting emits ultraviolet radiation (UV) which is known to cause fading and irreversible damage to sensitive pigments and dyes of photographs, art, fabrics and other objects. Moreover the light produced has poor color balance and does not accurately reproduce the actual true colors of exhibits. Viewer comfort and effective illumination of museum displays are of highest priority. Existing unshielded fluorescent lighting causes disability glare and reflections from glass and displays (where lamps are in the observer’s field of view of the exhibits) and makes viewing of the displays very difficult.
In July 2011, Nancy Johnson of Fabray Architectural Lighting Consultants of Denver, a certified and highly experienced lighting engineer and designer and president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), met with the museum’s board of directors and lighting committee to evaluate the museum and to make recommendations. As a result of Nancy’s expert evaluation and proposal for enhanced museum lighting, her services were contracted through support by a Fairfield Charitable Trust grant. Following an extensive site visit and interviews with the board’s lighting committee, she completed a comprehensive and state-of-the-art museum lighting design and engineering plan and a projected cost analysis to upgrade all museum lighting with a prioritized, phased approach. Seven phases were identified to provide a comprehensive document which can be submitted to various philanthropic foundations, corporations, private benefactors, et al, who may wish to contribute to this essential conservation project.
A special recommendation by Nancy Johnson included developing a vision and mission statement for improving “user-friendliness” and identifying the intended purpose of all museum exhibits to make them more interesting. Moreover, it is essential to tell a story associating of the exhibit memorabilia and the pioneer families who contributed them, thus making the connection as a “living history experience” possible for museum patrons. Accordingly, many hours were spent by lighting committee members in assessing and making recommendations for improvements which will be gradually implemented and will make the “wunderkammer” curio museum all the more attractive and interesting to the thousands of visitors who annually enjoy the plethora of unique exhibits. State-of-the-art warm light-emitting diode [LED] and UV-filtered fluorescent shielded luminaires will be installed to provide optimal visual comfort and exhibit detail. LED lights have a projected life of more than 50,000 hours without degradation of lumen output so will last for many years without maintenance or a need to replace lamps. They are nearly 95 percent efficient so produce little heat when compared to fluorescent or incandescent lamps which are far less efficient, and there is no hazardous material such as mercury.
A special application of passive solar UV-filtered lighting through use of Solatubes® will provide daylight to the museum’s interior for optimal visual effect and to complement specialized museum lighting, thus saving substantial energy costs. A computerized occupancy sensor control system will switch lights off in rooms that are not occupied by patrons or staff, but will turn on instantly when the room is occupied. Optimal lighting of exhibits will include shielding the light source from the view of the observer to eliminate visual discomfort and glare.
The RBC Historical Society wishes to express sincere appreciation to the Freeman Fairfield Charitable Trust, and to the White River Electric Association as well as private donors, for their generous grants which have made it possible to move ahead with the first phase of the lighting renovation. This phase will permit installation of a master digital lighting control system, re-wiring of lighting circuits and the installation of state-of-the-art light-emitting diode (LED) luminaires and UV-filtered fluorescent wash luminaires in the five rooms of the oldest part of the museum. Please join the lighting committee and board of directors in this worthwhile quest for 21st century lighting enhancements as a part of the museum’s vision “Lighting the Future to Preserve our Past.”
Although the first phase is now funded, RBC Historical Society is seeking additional funding for the remaining six phases. For more information, please contact the museum at 970-878-9982 or email historical society president Ellene Meece at ellene@brmgonline.com.
RBC Historical Society also has an email list serve for members and patrons: rbchistoricalsociety@lists .colorado.edu. To subscribe send an email with your email address and your name to amick@spot.colorado.edu.