Lighting designer Clint Paugh shows museum staff how the museum's different artworks look under LED lighting.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Lighting designer Clint Paugh shows museum staff how the museum's different artworks look under LED lighting.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., has been conducting a test the past several months to determine how best to change its stock of existing PAR lamps used throughout the museum and its gallery spaces, to LEDs. Clint Paugh, the museum’s in-house lighting designer is overseeing the project that will run through Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 27 - 30). “Seventy percent of our galleries use PAR38 lamps,” Paugh says. “But those lamps will soon be obsolete and our stock of available lamps will run out. We needed to find a viable alternative and so we initiated this test process.”
To gather both spot and flood test lamps for evaluation, Paugh assembled a list of a dozen criteria that included light output and color rendering, as well as cost and payback period, and sent it to a number of lamp distributors. Sixteen companies responded. This group was narrowed down to four manufacturers that met the museum’s criteria. Galleries throughout the museum were then outfitted with the different samples for side-by-side comparisons. “We invited all staff, everyone from the curators and conservators to the sales staff in the bookstore, to look at the installations and provide comments,” Paugh says. 
Based on the museum staff feedback, the four LED options were then narrowed down to two so that the museum could open the process up for public comments. A map in the museum lobby directs visitors to the different galleries where the two LED lamp choices are being compared on actual artworks in the museum’s collection. Guests can vote for their preference for either “LED A” or “LED B” by making a donation in a ballot box near the test examples. This is a new type of fundraising process for the museum, which gives visitors a direct sense of how their donation is being used. The museum will make a final determination about which lamp it will go with once the public comment period ends. 
Different fabric and paint swatches as well as wood laminates and veneers were studied under the different test lamps to evaluate how the materials and color responded to the LED sources.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Different fabric and paint swatches as well as wood laminates and veneers were studied under the different test lamps to evaluate how the materials and color responded to the LED sources.


Museum guests can vote for their LED lamp preference by making a donation.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Museum guests can vote for their LED lamp preference by making a donation.


A side-by-side LED lamp test in one of the museum's galleries.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art A side-by-side LED lamp test in one of the museum's galleries.

A display of the test sources in the museum's lobby.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art A display of the test sources in the museum's lobby.