Dust is composed of very fine particulate matter. Its origin is mostly from people, whether off their skin, hair or clothing. Left accumulating on surfaces, dust can cause chemical reactions and become cemented on. It can then become a reservoir for the absorption of moisture and pollutants as well as a source of food for pests. Surfaces can be scratched in the process of removing dust when cloths are rubbed over them.
You may have seen notices around the museum asking you not to touch objects. This is to prevent contamination from the natural oils present on your hands. There is a touch screen in the Conservation Gallery to illustrate this. If you have ever watched a surface being dusted for fingerprints, you will realise just how much residue is left behind by the cleanest of hands. Gloves are worn by all staff when the collections are handled.
Keeping people at a distance away from objects reduces the volume of dust that accumulates on them.
There is a regular maintenance programme of dusting using soft brushes for all uncased objects and the frames of paintings. The galleries themselves are vacuumed every day.
Filters on AHUs
The Air Handling Units introduced in the 2009 build have filters on the air intakes to reduce dust or particulates from being introduced from external sources.
To prevent dust ingress into cases and onto objects, the cases are made as air tight as possible.