Keeping It Cool

The weather is heating up outside but it’s a cool, comfy, and constant 70 degrees (or thereabouts) at the DMA, where our temperature and humidity is monitored 24/7. More than 220 sensors are hidden throughout the Museum, and they help us record and regulate our internal environment.

With our encyclopedic collection and a vast array of media, 70 degrees with 50% humidity is the museum gold standard to best protect and preserve the precious objects entrusted to our care. If conditions are too dry, our wooden sculptures could crack; too humid, and other objects could start to mildew. What we try to avoid most are dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which could cause materials to expand and contract.

Artworks that are particularly vulnerable to climatic conditions are sometimes monitored in their cases. Wandering through our galleries, you may spot these tiny devices (just 1 x 2 inches) lurking in the corners. These hygrothermographs are temperature and humidity sensors that give us real-time environmental readings.

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Lacquer in particular, such as these works from our Asian collection, is susceptible to fluctuations, which can cause the material to lift and crack. For objects needing lower humidity, we sometimes hide the desiccant silica gel inside the casework (under decks and mounts) to create special microclimates.

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So as temperatures and humidity soar in the Dallas summer, come cool off in the Museum, where general admission (and air conditioning) is always free.

Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar of Exhibitions at the DMA. 


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