Sustainability campaign

The MA's influential campaign to get museums to think about economic, social and environmental sustainability
Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

With their long-term role in preservation and community engagement, museums are in the sustainability business. They balance the interests of different generations. As well as serving society today, they aim to pass on collections, information and knowledge to people in the future.

However, until recently museums didn't tend to think explicitly about sustainability. The Museums Association's campaign showed museums that concepts of sustainability can help them think about and improve their work.

Sustainability consultation and report: 2008/9

In 2008 we published a discussion paper and ran a consultation about sustainability and museums. Around 400 museum staff attended our discussion workshops and thousands more heard about the subject at conferences, through the discussion paper and from articles in Museums Journal and Museum Practice.

The consultation, published in 2009, focused on sustainability in its broadest economic, social and environmental sense.

Click here for report on sustainability consultation (pdf)

Download Museums and Sustainability discussion paper (pdf)


We also featured sustainability as a theme in our 2009 annual conference and included sustainability sessions in our 2010 conference.

Collections reviews

We have run a programme of collections review training that encourages museums to prioritise their collections.

One outcome of this has been to make collections more sustainable by ensuring that resources are not being wasted on caring for low priority items.

Click here to read Museum Practice on collections reviews

Getting museums to go greener

But there's much more to do. Our consultation concluded that museums need more help and leadership if they are to go green. With a few honourable exceptions, for most museums environmental sustainability seems to be quite a low priority. It's particularly disappointing that museum support bodies have failed to do much to make museums greener.

Click here for our thinking on how museums could become greener

The sustainability consultation also concluded that there's a need to think more about the deeper, longer-term implications of sustainability for museums so that they can thrive while using less energy and, probably, spending less money.

More information

Museums and Sustainability introductory leaflet (pdf)

Sustainability and Museums Checklist (word)

Key principles for sustainable museums

Definitions of sustainability

Sustainability case studies

What the MA is doing to improve its own sustainability

MJ article about the MA's take on sustainability

Museum Practice guide to carbon footprinting