Vox pop | Can touring exhibitions ever be sustainable? - Museums Association

Vox pop | Can touring exhibitions ever be sustainable?

Two museum professionals respond to our question
Museums for Climate Justice
Alison Morton
Head Of Exhibitions, Sheffield Museums

“Yes, if the long-term plan relies on sharing resources and not additional funding. Over the years, museums and galleries have evolved differently, soresources and staffing structures vary across the sector. An organisation may have a permanent technical team, another a van, while others might have in-house conservators and graphic designers that they can use. Put together, these differences can provide everything a project needs to succeed with minimal cash input. This, coupled with a degree of professionalism and mutual trust that waives additional costs such as couriers, can further reduce the costs of lending and touring enabling touring exhibitions to be affordable for all in the sector.”

George Young
Head of exhibitions and collections at Manchester Museum

“Zero emissions for exhibitions in museums and galleries are not currently possible, but that only makes the task of ensuring exhibitions are as sustainable as they can be more urgent. It needs everything from ingenious technicians getting involved in reducing, reusing and recycling to creative programmers questioning who is served by a rapid turnover of exhibitions. Manchester Museum is establishing short- and long-term goals to limit our own emissions and extend our influence as the world’s first carbon literate museum. We are doing this across the sector through our Roots and Branches collaboration with Museum Development North West. We can’t yet get to zero, but we can all be striving to get as close as we can.”

Comments (1)

  1. Chris Wood says:

    It is interesting that the two respondents assume two very different definitions of “sustainable”! Alison Morton takes it in the narrow, business sense of “can we afford to keep doing it?” and shows that we can.

    George Young, on the other hand, gets closer to the true meaning of “sustainable”, before it was appropriated by the business world, i.e. that which helps us meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs. Unfortunately, she takes a narrow view of that, talking about “zero emissions” as if that was everything (and, given that not all emissions need to be reduced to zero, I suspect she is refering to carbon specifically, which is certainly not the sum of human impacts on the environment!).

    Furthermore, she misses the point on the particular issue of touring exhibitions. Yes, we need to do more in the museums sector to reduce energy use, emissions and materials use – and particular find ways of using less persistent materials where we can – but the key environmental impact comes from visitor travel. If touring exhibitions mean that people can see them – or indeed an iconic artefact or work of art that is included – without having to travel so far, then touring exhibitions are indeed part of a sustainable strategy.

    Chris Wood
    The Ickeny Collection

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