RIT’s Image Permanence Institute receives $350,000 grant from NEH

Research will assess impact of energy-saving strategies on pollutant levels in collection spaces

University of Kansas Libraries

IPI’s Kelly McCauley Krish downloading temperature and relative humidity data.

The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at Rochester Institute of Technology has received a $350,000 Research and Development grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support a research project that will study the impact of energy-saving strategies on pollutant levels in collection spaces.

Research activities for the three-year, field-based research project will be organized and led by Kelly McCauley Krish, IPI preventive conservation specialist. The study will apply data from temperature, relative humidity, and pollutant monitoring to comprehensively balance these known risks to collections when implementing energy-saving mechanical system operations.

IPI is a university-based research center in RIT’s College of Art and Design dedicated to supporting the preservation of cultural heritage collections in libraries, archives, and museums worldwide.

According to Krish, the multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project will for the first time see IPI project members team with colleagues from RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. The RIT team will also work with researchers at the Canadian Conservation Institute and an independent consultant in indoor air quality to achieve project goals.

About the project

Strategies such as temporary system shutdowns, fan speed adjustments, and outside air reduction are proven, effective ways to maintain or even improve the preservation quality of a collection environment. These measures reduce both the financial burden and carbon footprint of a collecting institution—critical challenges in today’s world.

The current criteria guiding the safe implementation of energy-saving strategies, however, focus on temperature and relative humidity alone, ignoring the significant risk to collections posed by outdoor and indoor-generated pollutants. This project will address that problem by developing a methodology for monitoring room-level pollutant concentrations while implementing these energy-saving strategies and then analyzing that data to optimize the environment for energy savings while reducing risk associated with different kinds of pollutants.

The primary outcome will be data collection and a modeling procedure to help institutions balance pollutant-level changes while implementing energy-saving strategies, based on their specific outdoor environment, mechanical system, and collection.

“The model will be able to be used by any collecting institution interested in implementing energy-saving strategies to reduce risks associated with pollutants, while also managing energy usage,” Krish said.

IPI will partner with three collecting institutions, identified through an application process this spring, to implement the testing and methodology for this project.

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