History of Art


Assessing the impact of LED lighting on pigments and paper in collections

LED lighting

Project Researchers: Emma Richardson, Elizabeth Woolley and Dave Thickett (English Heritage)

Project Funders: English Heritage and the RSC Tom West Analytical Fellowship

Solid-State Lighting systems, most commonly known as Light Emitting Diodes (LED), are steadily finding application in an increasing number of museum and heritage institutions, providing energy efficient solutions for collection display. However, with LED lighting technology still in its infancy there can be large differences in properties between lighting systems, which may pose problem for collections management and display

The overarching aims of this collaborative project with English Heritage are to identify whether particular pigments and pigment/binder compositions are vulnerable to chemical alterations, fading and discolouration when subject to solid-state lighting. This project will consist of a twelve-month ageing study to assess the effects of blue chip LED lighting on the stability of a number of artists' pigments, paints and papers. This will be a comparative study focusing on four different lighting environments and three pigment/binder compositions, in addition to four representative paper samples used for watercolours.

Alterations in the binding media will be monitored periodically using Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier-transmission infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR) and accompanying colour changes monitored using a portable spectrophotometer. This project aims to establish to what extent LED lighting differs, in paint stability terms, relative to tungsten halogen lighting currently employed within English Heritage historic house environments.