Published 04/10/2023 | 10:30

Art Museum of Estonia has developed a model for creating sustainable exhibitions

Exhibition Art in the Age of the Anthropocene. Photo: Rait Tuulas

The Sustainable Exhibition Model, which will be presented at the Kumu Art Museum on 5 October, is a practical and inspiring tool to help museums and other exhibition institutions assess the environmental impact of exhibitions and make their exhibitions greener.

A dedicated carbon calculator will estimate the emissions related to exhibition materials, transport, energy consumption, publications and waste. “Although it is not yet compulsory to calculate the carbon emissions of cultural activities, measuring an exhibition’s footprint is very exciting and thought-provoking as it shows clearly which parts of our daily activities are the most harmful to the climate,” said the project leader, Karin Vicente.

Unlike similar international models, the Art Museum of Estonia calculator makes use of specific emission factors developed on behalf of the Ministry of Climate, ensuring accurate estimations that take the local context into account. The calculator includes a comprehensive list of materials, and the model also accounts for the effects of recycling materials, which is quite a common practice in Estonian museums.

“Measuring emissions helps to assess the efficiency of environmental activities, but is only one aspect of a sustainable museum. That’s why we have included a few recommendations and options in the model as best practices,” said Vicente. Key themes include the circular economy, reducing waste, eco-design principles, graphic design and environmentally friendly publications, as well as the social responsibility and accessibility of museums.

The model was developed as part of the exhibition project Art in the Age of the Anthropocene, which, in addition to applying environmentally friendly exhibition-making practices, explores and interprets Estonian art history from an eco-critical perspective, examining the possibility and necessity of art creation in the context of the climate crisis. It is also the first art exhibition in Estonia subject to a detailed measurement of its carbon footprint.

In addition to the Art Museum of Estonia, Vabamu, the Iisaku Parish Museum, the Kohtla-Järve Oil Shale Museum, the Estonian Rural Museums, the Miiamilla Children’s Museum, the Kalevipoeg Museum, the Estonian National Museum and many others have shared their best practices.

The model is available on a public website and is free for all museums and exhibitors to use.

It will be presented at the Kumu Art Museum on 5 October at 17.00. At 18.00, after the presentation of the model, visitors are invited to a tour of Art in the Age of the Anthropocene with the designers and curators of the exhibition.

Team: Karin Vicente, Aleksander Meresaar, Maria Muuk, Roland Reemaa (architecture firm LLRRLLRR), Renita Raudsepp and Kaja Kährik
Development of the carbon calculator: Sirli Pehme and Liisa Kompus (both Civitta Eesti AS)
Website and design by Ranno Ait (WWWstudio)

The project was supported by the Estonian National Heritage Board’s accelerator programme for museums.