UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Luz Frias-Hernandez

Balancing light: daylight characteristics of National Trust showrooms and implications for collections conservation and visitor experience

Adequate lighting is essential to ensure good visibility in heritage interiors. At present, most National Trust properties rely on daylight for the display of collections, introducing a unique lit environment in showrooms and maintaining their authenticity. However, the use of daylight often involves a major control challenge both for collections conservation and visitor enjoyment.

On the conservation side, light as an agent of deterioration has been widely explored for decades, and guidelines to prevent damage of collections are well established. Meanwhile, only in recent years has there been an increased interest in evaluating human’s perception towards the illumination of interiors dedicated to exhibiting cultural heritage. Nonetheless, existing studies are limited and these focus almost exclusively on museums, where conditions are significantly different from historic houses. Even less research has been undertaken with daylight, since its variability does not lend itself to controlled illuminance level testing.

This research aims to explore current daylight management practices in historic interiors that house collections, in order to ascertain to what extent measures are in place to limit light exposure impact negatively on the viewing experience of visitors. By assessing visitors’ visual performance and registering their perceptions, it is intended to understand their illumination requirements and inform of future daylight management improvements.