About Sustainability in Museums

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Climate Change: Museums have long served as vehicles for social and political engagement, if not outright change. What role should museums take on this topic? What are museums responsibility toward this issue?

Local and global action on climate emergency have, over many years, massively lagged behind an increasingly global consensus on the planetary threat it poses.

There is now increasing evidence of the deepening and widespread impact of climate breakdown on communities around the world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned only last year that ‘limiting warming to 1.5 degrees c is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so will require unprecedented changes’ from all sectors of society. According to the United Nations Secretary general for Climate action, who met in September, it is ‘the defining issue of our time’.

This year has seen a huge escalation in the public consciousness of Climate emergency and the mobilisation of hundreds and thousands of activist groups in many cities demanding urgent and radical actions from our governments.

Why should museums take a stand?

  • We cannot be bystanders in a society which frames our purpose.
  • In a changing and challenging environment we will need to be responsive, creative and adaptive to survive.
  • We are public or public facing organisations with institutional missions centred on a notion of public good.

How can museums respond to climate emergency?

  1. Put our own houses in order - interrogate our systems, our values and our programmes
  2. Work collaboratively across the sector to address our shared conventions and operating models and the values that underpin them
  3. Use our position as trusted organisations to raise consciousness and inspire action.

1.Put our houses in order, reduce and green:

  • The energy, water and materials we use in our buildings
  • Our business and research travel
  • The goods and services provided through our shops, restaurants and cafes
  • Construction and maintenance of our buildings

2.Work collaboratively across the sector to involve new and more sustainable systems and standards for:

  • Curating, installing and deinstalling exhibitions:
  • Caring for our collections
  • Crating, shipping, couriering our loans
  • Climate conditions within our galleries

3.Raise consciousness and inspire action:

  • CIMAM 5 year plan on Climate Emergency
  • CIMAM annual conference to coincide with UN Climate Change Conference November 9-19 2020

First steps:

  • Share sustainability guidelines