What’s Up With Museum Glass?

Some people seem to think that all glass is created equal and that it is only the thickness of different kinds of glass that really makes a big difference. It’s easy to assume that the substance that goes into making a fragile wine glass is mostly the same as what makes up a car’s windshield, but the truth is that there is often a big difference between types of glass. Some kinds of glass need to be strong enough to withstand the elements, while other kinds are made for their aesthetic qualities and are used in works of art. There are several different kinds of glass that are used for different purposes, and one of the most fascinating forms is museum glass.

What's Up With Museum Glass?

What is Museum Glass?

As its name implies, museum glass is intended for use with museum displays. At a glance, it would appear that this glass only needs to be kept clean so that it acts as a proper display window, but it has many other uses as well. Museum glass needs to be able to protect a work of art, something that is a little more complicated than simply preventing museum patrons from touching exhibits and possibly causing physical damage. Paintings and some other forms of art can become faded or brittle when exposed to ultraviolet light, but museum glass is designed to protect a work of art from UV radiation. Most museum glass features a thin sheet of glass that is two or three millimeters thick sandwiched between layers of anti-glare optical coating. This reduces the glare and reflections that we usually see when we look at sheets of glass and improves the appearance of a museum piece while protecting it.

Comparison to Regular Picture Glass

Museum glass is considerably more expensive than most picture glass found in store-bought picture frames. The glass used in most frames blocks about 40 percent of UV radiation and reflects roughly eight percent of light. Meanwhile, museum glass blocks up to 99 percent of UV light and reduces glare down to one or two percent. It is similar to conservation glass, and indeed many people believe that the two types of glass are interchangeable, but most conservation glass only blocks UV radiation or reduces glare; it typically does not do both. Because museum glass is so much more expensive than other forms of glass, its cost is often weighed against the value of the artwork that is being displayed. If a piece is not going to be exposed to large amounts of UV radiation, a museum may choose to forgo the use of museum glass to save money.

Seeing is Believing

One of the biggest benefits to using museum glass is how much better it can make a piece of art look on display. When it is used correctly, high-quality museum glass is practically invisible to observers, but it can also enhance the colors and brightness of all kinds of artwork. It is something that many people need to see to believe. Although most people may be happy with the standard picture glass often sold with frames, museum glass is far superior in many ways.


Gerald Copperfield is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, New York. Gerald focuses on home improvement, window replacement, home maintenance, construction, glass repair and other related matters; those in need of window replacement should consider procuring new windows from Texas Home Pro in the near future.

Image credit goes to Ben the Butterfly Guy.