Sunlight damages artefacts at Oxford's Natural History Museum

Restored glass roof causes “irreversible” damage to museum specimens.

Authorities at Oxford University's Natural History Museum have admitted that a recent £2-million project to restore the Victorian building's leaking glass roof is responsible for causing “rapid and irreversible” damage to its priceless artefacts.

The sunlight let in by cleaning 150 years of grime from the glass roof, coupled with the decision by engineers to remove the roof's solar reflective film, has led to soaring temperatures, low humidity and dangerously high levels of ultraviolet (UV) light inside the museum.

The combination of inhospitable conditions now threatens to destroy the museum specimens, cracking and fading the hides of exposed stuffed animals while also risking the future of a set of valuable whale skeletons.

During the renovation process, engineers removed the discoloured solar casing from the 8,500 individual roof tiles as it was not deemed in keeping with the building's Grade 1 listed status.

The university has now applied for listed building consent to install a new gold-coloured solar protective film to the roof and has plans to install a new air conditioning system, in an attempt to reduce temperatures.

Historic England, a government agency championing England's heritage, has voiced its approval of the plan even though such a move would diminish the appearance and historical significance of the building which was completed in 1860.

A decicion on the application request is expected in September.