The evolving responsibility of museum work in the time of climate change

Today’s Guest Post is by Sarah Sutton, Principal of Sustainable Museums, a consultancy for cultural organizations pursuing climate action.

Over the next few weeks, as we leave 2020 and enter 2021, we are highlighting articles from a special issue on ‘Museums and Climate Action’ published as Volume 35, Issue #6 of the journal Museum Management and Curatorship. Many thanks to both the Journal and the authors for allowing free access to this work.

Nordic Museum Spring 2019. Courtesy the Nordic Museum.


Museums have inherent capabilities, resources, and opportunities that position them to influence public responses to climate change. Using examples from diverse museum-types, Sutton highlights innovative ways in which energy efficient practices and thoughtful approaches to engaging communities with collections, exhibitions and programs can increase climate literacy and call people to action. Sutton argues that these bright spots in the sector’s work signal capacity but not widespread commitment. The result is a slow process of aligning resources and talents of museums toward this global fight. During 2020, as the World and the sector reels from the impacts of COVID-19, museum actions mirror many responses appropriate in the climate crisis. Sutton suggests that these build the sector’s ability and appetite to help communities. As nations emerge with recovery plans that could create a healthier, more just and resilient society, museums have the opportunity to influence that work, thereby magnifying positive impacts.

Read more here.

Sarah Sutton

Sarah Sutton is Principal of Sustainable Museums, a consultancy for cultural organizations pursuing climate action. Sarah is on the Executive Committee of We Are Still In, the largest coalition of non–national supporters of the Paris Agreement anywhere in the World. She teaches in the Harvard University Extension School Museum Studies program, and is a member of the Climate Task Force for the American Psychological Association. She is a co–author of two editions of The Green Museum and author of Environmental Sustainability at Historic Sites & Museums.