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Change or Damage?
Furniture is often richly decorated with veneers of exotic woods, forming highly ornate floral designs, known as marquetry. Optimum display conditions for veneer and marquetry furniture can be achieved using air conditioning. But in historic houses and museums, where air conditioning is not present, these collections can be exposed to large changes in relative humidity (RH). Fluctuating RH is thought to damage veneer and marquetry surfaces, causing cracks and lifting of small pieces. However, wood naturally responds to RH variation and small changes are not necessarily damaging. The research uses non-destructive monitoring to record small changes to decorative furniture surfaces. These results, combined with laboratory experiments focussing on causes of damage, help understand the response of objects to changes in display environments. The monitoring results, along with literature data for the response of similar materials, will be used to model the effects of changes to the display conditions. The outcomes will inform current management of the collections as well as future strategies for the preservation of these vulnerable objects.
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