Protecting Museum Collections from Vibrations Due to Construction: Vibration Statistics, Limits, Flexibility and Cooperation

W. (Bill) Wei*, Siobhan Watts, Tracey Seddon, David Crombie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Vibrations due to heavy construction work continue to be a major concern for museums. Although there has been an increase in research on the effect of vibrations on objects of cultural heritage in recent years, selecting measures to protect collections and remain open during construction work continues to be difficult because of a lack of data on what objects can actually withstand, the complexity of vibration loads, and the uniqueness of each situation. The major renovation of the Central Library in Liverpool, UK, which shared walls with the World Museum and Walker Art Gallery, both of which belong within National Museums Liverpool, showed how museums and other institutions can successfully deal with such situations. An integral approach was taken, beginning with an extensive risk analysis to determine which objects could remain on display, which needed extra protection and regular condition monitoring, and which had to be removed. The museums then negotiated a vibration protocol and action plan with the contractors, including continuous monitoring, and trigger levels requiring consultation or work stoppage. Vibration data were also stored and used for later analysis. This integral approach was successful in protecting the collections on exhibition, with only two incidents of reported damage directly related to vibrations. A combination of museum staff experience, excellent communications with the contractors, and some flexibility in defining vibration limits provided a successful recipe for both museums. The analysis of the vibration data using the basic engineering concept of the Palmgren-Miner rule, supports a more flexible approach to setting vibration limits based on recently published guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-300
Number of pages8
JournalStudies in Conservation
Issue numbersup1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Collection care
  • construction
  • Palmgren-Miner rule
  • preventive conservation
  • risk analysis
  • vibrations


Dive into the research topics of 'Protecting Museum Collections from Vibrations Due to Construction: Vibration Statistics, Limits, Flexibility and Cooperation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this