All buildings have a certain amount of internal infrastructure. Electrical, Plumbing, and Air Conditioning are all present in our homes businesses and at the museum as well. Normally my day to day work is as a project coordinator based at the museum and working on tourism projects. I look for and promote interesting but lesser well known sites in our area. Some days however I get to help with other needs around the museum such as exhibitions and electrical projects.
Keeping it all going falls to many hands and everyone at a small museum has to wear a few hats. When it’s lighting in the cases the exhibits staff, typically under the direction of the curatorial department, become electricians.
Like many, our museum has lighting in the exhibit cases and small low voltage puck type lights were installed around the year 2000. This type of light fixture had halogen light bulbs in them when they first came out, it was before the revolution in LED technology we all enjoy today. As such they ran hot and bright, and emitted ultraviolet light even at low voltage. At our museum a clever system was installed to manage the light/UV/heat output of the little bulbs back when they were installed. Over the last twenty years though, the little lights and the crafty controllers did start to wear out.
Skip ahead to 2019 and the miniaturization of electronics along with advances in LED technology meant we could replace the old halogen bulbs directly, keeping the old fixtures with a bulb that made no UV light, used a fraction of the electricity and none of the heat in the cases.
A little digging for some new transformers as well to replace the old units which had nearly made 20 years in operation, and it was time to get out the ladder and bring our case lighting ahead into the twenty first century!
It’s good to remember that it takes all sorts of people to make a museum work. Our staff all come from various backgrounds, not always in history museums, some not from museums at all. As students we all faced the question, “when am I ever going to need to know this?” Electrical training for me began in high school volunteering backstage in theatrical productions as well as tinkering with ham radios in my spare time. Internships and summer jobs between semesters called on those resources and helped me build new ones. Today I was an electrician and an exhibits technician, tomorrow I’ll go back to managing social media and researching in the archives because keeping a museum working takes all sorts of skills.