The use of wood-based products in showcases: an insight into current practices
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It has long been established that wood emits volatile organic compounds that can be harmful to museum collections. An online survey was conducted to assess whether museums still used wood and composite wood inside showcases and, should this be the case, what strategies they employed to reduce the risk posed by the emissions from these materials. The survey found that the vast majority of the institutions that took part (69 out of 83) used wood or composite wood inside their showcases. Half of these institutions (34 out of 69) applied liquid coatings to those wooden components in an attempt to reduce emissions, and many of those institutions (23 out of 34) followed this approach for long-term displays despite the fact that research in the 1990s showed liquid coatings only reduce emissions for a few months, at the most. Several institutions (31 out of 69) used barrier films to seal wood and composite wood, but the integrity of the seal was sometimes compromised by stapling fabrics over the barrier films (11 institutions out of 31). The findings of the survey show that, despite the well-known risk posed to museum objects, wood and composite wood are still used widely in showcases and the methods used to seal these materials are often inadequate.