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Flash Bulbs and Artifact Preservation: Myth Debunked!

Craft & Design

I’ve been to a ton of museums that have said flash photography damages the works, but it seems like it’s not exactly true. “300 amateur flashes a day is equivalent to adding five minutes to the display day. In order to actually increase damage by 10% on a ten hour day, one would need to experience 3600 flashes per day. Two large professional flashes would raise the ante a little, they would need 225 flashes a day to add 10%. For museums at 150 lux (15 footcandles) these numbers become 10,000 amateurs, or 700 pros, every day. To actually double fading would need 100,000 amateurs a day. Most museums would kill for those attendance figures!” Sounds like a good MythBusters thing too, Full story here – Link.

4 thoughts on “Flash Bulbs and Artifact Preservation: Myth Debunked!

  1. monopole says:

    An interesting point which is not discussed in the linked document is the spectral content of the light source. In particular, the UV content which would be the primary source of fading could have greater impact relative to the cumulative exposure. Although this could be positive in the case of LED flashes in that they have no UV content

  2. turnerhicks says:

    I think the real reason that museums prohibit flashes is not preservation of art, but of gift shop sales. It is basically impossible under current copyright law to restrict anyone from selling posters and similar photographic reproductions of the art in museums. Especially since most of the older, famous art is old enough to be in the public domain. The limits on flash photography keeps people from making professional quality photos that would compete with the museum’s own sales. It’s the same reason why tripods are also usually banned, but in that case, the stated reason is crowd control and traffic flow. In the dark interior light, it is extremely difficult for anyone, including professionals, to make very high quality copies without flash or tripod…

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