Good Vibrations at Hampton Court Palace?

Is vibration from visitor activity or from functions and events a risk to the palace or its collections?

Vibrations at Hampton Court Palace

More and more people are coming to see our historic palaces and collections of objects. One effect, not immediately obvious, of these increasing numbers is increased vibration levels. Perhaps you might notice 'bouncy' floors, 'rattly' window panes, or swaying candle-sticks as you pass through the palace– these are all the effects of vibration. If unattended, such movements could eventually cause damage to the fabric of the building or the objects on display.

So what are we doing about this? 

Well, we place vibration sensors at various locations within the palace to monitor movements in the floors and of the objects on display. We analyse the results to check these small movements will not cause damage over time. We are also checking the effects of holding special functions and private parties in the palace – this has led to groups of conservators dancing in the early morning before the palace opens to the public!

Results and findings

We are combining our data with the results of a study commissioned by the Surveyor of the Fabric from an acoustic engineer consultant, which was carried out during the 2006 IMG music festival. We will get the results in September. We will use the findings to plan which rooms are most appropriate for activities likely to cause vibration, and to determine what level of protection is required to prevent vibration damage in the future. We will also continue to make vibration measurements during activities at Hampton Court Palace using our in-house equipment.

A preliminary study carried out last year indicated that vibration levels measured during the 2005 IMG music festival were within international guidelines for historic and vulnerable building structures. However, there is a dearth of information on the effect of vibration on collections. We can look to previous research on the effect of vibration during building works, or in transit, but these are different types of effects. So, it’s only by building up a set of our own data at the palaces that we can start to compare the risks.

Further information

Other agents of decay

It's a constant battle against the causes of deterioration. Read about other agents of decay. 

You can help us

Palace upkeep is expensive work and as an independent charity we receive no funding from the Government or the Crown. We depend on our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors to help us.

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