An ultraviolet-radiation sterilization lamp irradiated 201 color cards in an enclosed vitrine through the entire duration of a museum exhibition. With a powerful wavelength of 254nm UV radiation, the exposed cards slightly discolored. The shortwave UV radiation destroyed the exposed material, meant to be an index of colors that were effectively leached of their true colors, stripped of their function, and thus sterilized.
Museum cases are primarily designed to protect the artworks from viewers’ touch. Artworks are framed or cased under glass with UV filter to arrest or diminish the corrosive effects of exposure to light and to preserve the intrinsic material qualities of the works. Sterilize reverses this standard in exhibition practice. The artwork is cased to contain its irradiating force and to safeguard the viewers from direct exposure to the art, which emits highly concentrated, hazardous light.
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