This study was designed to determine the most appropriate type of climate control system for the Aiken-Rhett House (1820-22), a historic house museum located in Charleston, South Carolina. The Aiken-Rhett property is unique in that it has never been restored and the current stewards of the museum have taken a conservation philosophy to the interpretation of the house. This house museum is rare because it is one of the few remaining unrestored antebellum structures in the South. Although grand mansions were never intended to exist in a state of decline, as the Aiken-Rhett does now, the preserved layers of time provide visitors with a sense of place and connect them to the past. Therefore, preserving this house museum and its original nineteenth-century finishes is of great importance to its interpretive value.
Because a majority of the house is not climate-controlled, the building and its finishes are subjected to the high heat and humidity of Charleston, accelerating the deterioration of the historic building fabric. The owners of the property, Historic Charleston Foundation, are seeking new ideas for a climate control system to better protect the building and the collections that are exhibited inside. The type of environment that is beneficial for museum collections is not always best for historic buildings. This study aims to find the most appropriate interior climate control system for the building and its finishes, while collections and visitor comfort are treated as secondary priorities. The final recommendations will respect the historic fabric of the Aiken-Rhett House, while also providing economical and sustainable solutions for its continued care.