Let there be (less) light! A comparison of the radiation-blocking properties of selected window films

A couple of years ago, I conducted some research on UV-filtering window films for a class on preventive conservation at New York University’s Conservation Center. As conservators, we all know that light can damage our collections. Window films are a (relatively) inexpensive way for removing UV from exhibition settings, but how effective are they, really? How well do they filter UV radiation, and how do they affect visible light?

Under the supervision of Steve Weintraub of Art Preservation Services, I tested a number of commercially available window films, some specially designed to filter UV, and some marketed towards the general public, as well as some adhesives and one sample of glass designed for museum environments. I analyzed their effectiveness using an ELSEC 764 environmental monitor, an OceanOptics USB2000+ spectrophotometer, and a Konica Minolta Color Meter II.


Experimental set-up. Diagram designed by Stephanie Kroll.

The details of my research are presented in the poster below (which is available for download here). Unsurprisingly, I found that those window films that are specially designed to filter UV are in fact more effective at doing so, but I also found that all the window treatments filtered visible light. Most had minor impacts of correlated color temperature, and further research could determine whether this change would have a noticeable impact on the appearance of collection items.

My study is just one data point in the bulk of research done by others on this topic. It will be interesting to see what further investigation uncovers in years to follow.

(click to view the full-size image)

Saira Haqqi is a recent graduate of the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, where she specialized in library and archives conservation. She has completed internships at the Library of Congress, the New York Academy of Medicine and the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University, and is currently interning at the New York Historical Society. Her work on UV-filtering window films and on early-twentieth-century book repair was presented earlier this year at the Care and Conservation of Manuscripts seminar in Copenhagen, Denmark, and at the American Institute for Conservation of Historical and Artistic Works and Canadian Association for Conservation Joint Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada.

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