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Development of a method for measuring the rate of dust accumulation in collections and to determine its origin.

This project was carried out in response to questions from the four external partners: where does dust come from and how can it be measured and assessed? 

SEM-capture of dust-particles. Photo: Bill Wei.

SEM-capture of dust-particles. Photo: Bill Wei.

A method was developed that allows collection managers to independently carry out dust measurements.

Time, money and perception

Due to dust, objects, collections, showcases and audio-visual equipment must be regularly cleaned: this takes time and money and worsens the condition of objects over the long term. Moreover dust also influences the perception of the visitor regarding the organization and professionalism of a museum.

Measuring loss of gloss

Standard glass microscopy slides were used as controls for measuring dust with the new methods.  These slides can be positioned in a museum strategically and practically invisibly. In this way, collection managers can easily collect dust samples and have them chemically analysed. This information enables the determination of where and how rapidly dust falls, and its source. For example, it has become clear that most of the dust in museums is brought in by visitors.

Dust Workshop

The project was finalised with two filled-to-capacity workshops on dust, organized in collaboration with the Amsterdam Museum. Sixty participants brought along their own gloss measurements. Using perception tests and the Socratic dialogue 'What is dirty?' everyone could experience how difficult it is to assess dust levels.