Shining fresh light on The Fitzwilliam Museum

Tridonic partner, Littledown, has played a key role in the provision and installation of the lighting control for the recently completed refurbishment of Gallery Three at The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Opened in 1848, The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is the lead partner of the collections of the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) and Botanic Garden. It houses a world-renowned collection of over half a million works of art, masterpiece paintings and historical artefacts.

Littledown had already been involved in the refurbishment of the museum’s main entrance, so was pleased to be involved in this next stage. The initial brief for the lighting in the gallery was to illuminate the gallery evenly, whilst providing the flexibility to control the ambiance of the gallery by the lighting.

Specific requirements

Steve Reid, Managing Director at Littledown, worked closely with Precision Lighting and Lighting Designer, Matthew Nourse, to devise a lighting solution which could accommodate these specific requirements.

He explains, “There were four elements of the lighting which required consideration:

  • Lower level, to illuminate the art objects. This was split into two options – the main track in the recesses, and the spotlights on the bulkheads.
  • Mezzanine level, which may in future have objects, but none that are immediately planned. Therefore, the lighting would be dedicated to the ancient frieze.
  • Barrel ceiling, with the best architectural features of the space, including the ceiling mouldings and illuminated to show the finer detail.
  • And finally, the upper level where the statues stand between the window elements – the idea being to highlight each individual sculpture.”

In addition, each of the lighting levels had to be individually controlled, and all must have the capability of dimming using a DALI system (this is an upgrade on the control system currently in most other areas of the museum). Colour rendering and light levels were also a key consideration for the curators.

Reid continues, “This was a challenging project for us to work on. Not only did we only have a very short window for the installation, but the linear lighting that we were installing around the pelmets totalled 60 metres in length and is over 10 metres above floor level.”

Tridonic’s support and its ability to meet the tight deadlines for manufacture was vital to the success of the project, while the reliability of the components supplied also offered peace of mind.

Artwork in the right light

The LED linear lighting, which uses Tridonic control gear, was installed using specially designed, easy to mount brackets. The main components were LCA 50W drivers, LLE boards and LED covers, all of which have the Tridonic five-year guarantee. The drivers, meanwhile, have a nominal lifetime of 100,000 hours.

The gallery’s entire lighting solution is fully controllable, and each individual fitting can be programmed to provide the optimum LUX levels for the artwork that is being illuminated.

The standard lighting is a warm white with a colour temperature of 3000K, which matches the colour temperature in the recently refurbished entrance hall. By removing the old fluorescent fittings, not only has the lighting improved, with no flicker, but the museum is also anticipating making a significant energy saving and reducing the possible effects of UV on the artefacts.

In addition to the illustrious artworks, the plasterwork on the ceiling – which is considered one of the most astonishing museum interiors anywhere – has been cleaned, freshened up and painted in parts, and the new lighting enables visitors to have a far better view of all the detail.

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