Museums and sustainability
The Finnish Museums´ Association has set up a
working group tasked with promoting sustainable development. Its objective is
to consider the ecological principles of museums and by the end of 2010 to devise
a sustainable development programme for museums. The group is chaired by Timo
Kukko, Director of Nuuksiokeskus Ltd, part of Metsähallitus, the Finnish Forest
and Park Service.
The basic idea of the programme is that social, cultural, and economic means lay the groundwork for ecological sustainability. Problems with the ecosystem, which manifest themselves as the results of human activity, can be mitigated by changing the way we do things.
The most prominent of the effects museums have on
the climate are due to heating, electricity and movement of goods and people,
which make up about 75% of a museum's energy consumption. Other features, such
as cafés, gift shops, offices etc. make up the rest.
Museums have to recognise the effects of
environmental change on the substance of their work and also understand their
role in mitigating the change. Sustainable development offers the museums a new
approach to old practices, new ways to display their collections and reach
audiences. For their part, the museums are expected to focus on the principles
of sustainable development and responsible consumption. Taking sustainability
into account as a part of museum education increases a sense of social
responsibility. In this way, museums can provide a source of enlightenment for
the community. (The Finnish Museums´
Association strategy for 2007-2013)
Sustainable development and the international profiling of the museums underpin the Finnish Museum Association´s plan for the year 2010.
Besides Timo Kukko, the other members of the working group are: Saara Airaksinen, Special Coordinator, Metsähallitus; Merja Herranen, Museum Director, The Porvoo Museum; Heikki Häyhä, Lecturer at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences; Maire Mattinen, Departmental Head, National Board of Antiquities; Susanna Pettersson, Development Manager at the Finnish National Gallery, Community relations and development (KEHYS); and Juhani Terhivuo, Superintendent at the Finnish Museum of Natural History.
conducted a survey on the operational models of museums with respect to
sustainability. To date, 33 museums and three nature centres have responded to
Only a few of the museums that responded to the survey had a written sustainable development strategy, while 30 % incorporate the principles of sustainable development into their activity. Energy consumption was monitored by 16 % whereas 11 % did so to some extent. Seventy percent took the principles of sustainability into account when organising business trips. Over 80 % of the respondents opted for local products and 80 % recycled materials.
Some examples of best
practice to meet the goals of sustainability in different sectors of museum
work are as follows:
Premises / The built environment
The use of geothermal heating is encouraged, energy consumption is monitored, regular energy inspections are conducted. Wherever possible appliances should be switched off rather than unnecessarily using standby mode. The temperatures of premises should be monitored and room temperatures adjusted accordingly. Windows should be properly insulated. Room temperatures could be slightly reduced when the exhibition space is closed to the public. Lights should be turned off in rooms that are not in use and energy-efficient bulbs could be used. Current heating methods could be replaced with more environmentally friendly ones. Room temperatures should be lowered as much as possible in working and storage spaces. The need for heating and moving goods and people around can be reduced by centralising storage spaces. In old, listed buildings structural changes are made within the terms of preservation orders. When renovating, use timber locally sourced and processed by a local sawmill. Use partly recycled renovation materials (e.g. window glass).
Use permanent and adaptable exhibition structures. Reuse materials and use the services provided by local suppliers and producers. Use sustainable materials, e.g. wear-resistant fabrics for exhibition posters; they could be stored in a small space and made use of again later or offered to other museums or activities. Circulating exhibitions should be storable. The transportation of exhibits should involve fewer separate journeys. Take energy efficiency into account in the use of exhibition electronics by using LED lights. Restrict the lux of the lights and use halogen lights and fibre optics. Construct dividers from recycled material, e.g. wooden pallets. Waste from building exhibitions should be recycled and sorted. Collaborative projects can be set up with other museums.
Only material that is decided upon in advance will be selected for the museum collections, so no "backups" are allowed. Equipment that is needed in the course of maintaining and displaying collections should be chosen on the basis of durability and safety. The exhibition spaces should be created with flexible, space-saving, recyclable constructions. Deliveries from the picture archives should be sent in digital format. Packing material should be used several times.
Discarded materials, e.g. office furniture, could
be donated to charities such as the Finnish Red Cross. Wood and metal should be
sorted out from other waste. Heating and air-conditioning should be set to
levels adequate for the preservation of collections. A collection policy plan outlining
these procedures could be made together with other museums in the area.
Furniture and other equipment should be purchased together with other local
In order to avoid the use of disposable materials, posters of various events could be printed without the date, so that they can be reused. Many events can promote sustainability by emphasising traditional working methods and materials. The subject of the events should involve environmental education. Car pools can be arranged for the events and excursions associated with the events. Disposable structures and excess waste should be avoided. The aim is to create events that are accessible to a wide audience. When working together with other cultural producers, the events, both national and local, could be free of charge. Recycled materials can be used, for example, in children´s workshops. All the foodstuff could be locally produced, Fair Trade and organic. Expenses and the workload can be reduced when events are arranged in cooperation with other organisations.
The gift shops should use environmentally friendly materials for wrappings, which can be recycled and reused. The shops could sell products from local enterprises and promote durable, high-quality handicrafts, thereby avoiding the throwaway culture. The products can often be made of recycled materials. This could mean using leftover yarn for potholders, clay from the farm to make pottery, or melting stubs of old candles to make new ones. Souvenirs can be manufactured locally. All shop products should be suitable for recycling, burning or composting.
Cafés and restaurants
Use locally sourced raw materials, and avoid using disposable plates and cups. Berries could be picked for baking cafeteria products, and meals made with vegetables from the cafeteria´s own vegetable gardens. Make sure the toilet facilities are equipped with eco-friendly soaps and hand towels. Choose Fair Trade products. Separate out organic waste.
Avoid unnecessary copying and printing. In meetings, project rather than print files. Use double-sided printouts, and reuse printing paper and envelopes. Make efficient use of automatic on-off switches, such as those of printers and computers. Keep the indoor temperature at 21°C. Save energy by switching the lights and computer screens off when leaving offices. Use environmentally certified printed matter. Minimise the consumption of paper by adopting the concept of a paper-free office. Reuse folders. Make long-term acquisitions. Use public transportation as much as possible on business trips.
The personnel's familiarity with environmental issues could usefully be discussed and encouraged. Annual check-ups on the implementation of environmental programmes could be made. Team-based organisation could make use of phone meetings and video conferences. Car pools should be used when travelling. A museum's administrative board should hold its meetings on the museum premises and use a minimal amount of printed material. The instructions on sustainability should be practicable. As many matters as possible should be handled electronically, including internal matters within city organisations, public relations, and interaction with interest groups, thus facilitating effective data transmission and decreasing paper deliveries. Public transport should be the preferred form of travel on work-related trips.
The future of museums may very well be virtual in the long run. Joint use of collections and good websites and links reduce the necessity of travelling from one exhibition to another or storing the exhibits. Centralising different museum activities would reduce the traffic between various locations. Museum premises should be fit for purpose so that sustainability could be better taken into account in working practices and in customer service. Our aim is to help people appreciate durability, careful planning and simplicity by setting a good example. In this way sustainability would be a recognised part of our activity. We aim to increase cooperation in purchases, conservation services and other expert services. All museums would have a sustainability programme.
Society at large
Contact and co-operation with local companies should be encouraged. State and municipal regulations should be adhered to so that the museum´s goals are largely connected with the requirements coming from above. On the other hand, the requirements are dictated by global concerns about the future. Co-operative ventures should be established between the environmental authorities in the municipality and youth workshops to increase public awareness environment at the local level. Shared responsibility for both the cultural and natural environment should be emphasised. Museums should be housed in central locations such as the city centre so that visitors could reach the museum on foot or by public transport. The local community should be taken into account in all museum activities. Local workforce, products and know-how are to be used whenever possible. Statements concerning plans for the built cultural environment should be subject to public scrutiny. Collaboration with the third sector should be encouraged.
The General Public
Museums exist to serve the public. This includes future generations, for whom information on the good and bad decisions of their predecessors is conserved in museums. The public is given the opportunity to participate in activities organised by the museum, with activities ranging from the reaping of grain to the making and use of red earth paint and the building of a traditional wooden shingle roof. The aim of these events is to raise awareness of the viability of old materials and methods. The customer service operations of museums should be centralised to make moving from one museum location to the next, either on foot or using public transportation, as easy as possible. Museums offer non-material experiences and information-based services through which the idea of sustainable development is better realised. Computers in public spaces should offer access to national archives and other bodies of material. Accessibility can be ensured through the creation of a functional local network. Customer surveys and feedback should be taken into consideration.
Most communication is handled electronically to minimise paper use. The culture section concentrates on press releases. Press images are to be sent in digital format. PR work is carried out online; neither mail nor fax are used. Virtual environments are put to use wherever possible. Marketing is done in cooperation with other museums and local companies.
E-mail lists are gradually replacing paper mail. Environmental
education should run throughout the museum´s activities, from events to
acquisitions. Openness in decision-making is promoted, for example, through
monthly meetings. Access should be guaranteed and working local networks
As long as we have adequate public transportation the centralisation of services should support sustainability. A good example are the activities of the Building Heritage House Toivo based on guidance and instruction about sustainable development. Public access should be a priority in all service provision. Guiding services should be developed. Primary schools, upper secondary schools, and vocational schools should receive teaching packs.
Museums usually conduct so-called basic research, with the work being done on a body of material or on a computer. Fieldwork in archaeology and the natural sciences takes place in carefully selected research locations. Visitor and customer research, research on the durability of materials is often conducted in connection with exhibitions. Our exhibitions focus on such topics as agrarian culture, which is itself in line with the rationale of sustainability. Another important research area is hydroelectric power. Co-operation with other museums in the preparation of exhibitions is fruitful. Preserving and researching the history of the museum's own field of activity is one of the research objectives of the museum.
Examples of pedagogical communication
Pedagogical material will be prepared in cooperation with teachers and communication with schools will be done electronically.
- Cultural and environmental education; visits,
presentations, lectures, workshops, exhibitions, teaching material,
publications, various events and bulletins.
- Cultural heritage and nature (national online educational material project 2010) ?
- Cultural and environmental workshop project
- Environmental education work group (KYKY) of the region of Central Finland and its committee; the plan of action and the development of environmental education, environmental education awards, the Viestejä maisemassa competition ("Messages in the Landscape"), seminars etc.
- Co-operative work group for architectural education; lectures and events
- European Heritage Days annually; events
- Working group of the built heritage; briefings for those involved in restoration projects
- Regional education in the cultural environment; Viestejä maisemassa exercises and guidance for pupils, Päivä Eilisessä ("The Day Yesterday") web page and workshops, tradition days, home district walks etc.
- Archaeological culture and environmental education; seminars, education in interpreting ancient monuments, presentations and lectures.
Cooperation and networking with other museums were considered important.