Preventive Conservation

Preventive conservation

Preventive conservation is the practice of creating a proper environment for an artwork. A proper environment, from a conservation standpoint, is one that controls physical and chemical factors such as temperature, humidity, light, air and pollution, and biological factors like fungi. Preventive conservation aims to provide this type of environment in storage and exhibition halls. While the requirements for conservation environment differ depending on the artwork, the environment is generally controlled by the following elements


Temperature and humidity control is an important factor in conserving artwork, as high temperature and humidity level can result in fungi or wrinkling in the art work, and low humidity can produce art works to peel off or crack. The appropriate temperature and humidity setting differs for each art work and material, but generally, a stable temperature between 18-22℃ and humidity level between 50-70% should be kept.


Light exposure on artwork is an important factor in preventive conservation, as strong light can cause serious damage to an artwork related to weakening of materials, such as fading and mutating of color pigments in especially Korean paintings and oil paintings. In contrast, however, works made of bronze, metal and glass tend to be resistant to deterioration from light. Light illumination level between 750-1500Lx is recommended for metal and stone works, below 150Lx for oil paintings, below 80Lx for dyed artworks or engravings, below 100Lx for Eastern paintings and watercolor paintings, and below 150Lx for films.

Noxious gases

In maintaining a stable environment, it is important to regularly measure noxious gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ammonia, ozone, formaldehyde, and radon as they highly affect material weakening and oxidization.

  • Measuring devices for noxious gases Measuring devices for noxious gases

Biological factors

Artworks made of organic materials need special care and attention, as the nature of their material makes them highly susceptible to damages from microorganism. At the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, artworks such as paintings and wooden works that are highly susceptible to biological damage are regularly fumigated and sterilized with germicidal gas before they are placed in storage.