Tuesday, 25 February 2020

UKRG Event: Think Green - Resource-sharing

Resource-sharing & the circular economy at the V&A. 
Zoë Louizos, Exhibitions Manager
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum

As we face a climate emergency, it is increasingly recognised that museums can play a crucial role in engaging and empowering people to challenge current practice. As a museum of art and design, the V&A strongly feel that these issues can, and should, be tackled creatively.
Zoë Louizos, from the V&A, came to talk about different ways to tackle the disposal of exhibition waste products; a problem that we all face on a regular basis due the current throwaway nature of exhibition design.
At the V&A there has been a positive move to try and share resources, which would otherwise be disposed of, with those in need who wouldn’t normally be able to access these materials. 
Smaller examples include: 
·         Giving terrariums to schools
·         Sending textile waste to a women’s refuge where it can be used to create products for sale
·         Donating scenery flats to festivals
·         Gifting plinths, perspex hoods and cradles to small local museums
However, it’s their surplus crates that have provided the V&A with the most scope for creative re-purposing:
·         Beehives on the roof of the museum
·         Used for DT projects in schools
·         Building materials for adventure playgrounds 
And for two major projects:
In 2019 the V&A collaborated with the 999 Club, an advice & support service and night shelter for the homeless, to upcycle crates into furniture. Eight people, who had previously been homeless, were paired with designers to create a piece of furniture that they could use when they were able to move on from the 999 Club to new, temporary accommodation. The completed pieces of furniture, which included a sewing table, writing bureau, bench with shelving and a bed, were displayed at the London Design Festival.
As part of the Day of Design event, which focussed on design solutions to the climate emergency, an open call was sent out for designers to create a range of furniture suitable for community dining, to be used for a Food Waste Feast where a buffet banquet was created from surplus ingredients. Over 300 people were fed down in the Transport for London underpass. Following the event, the furniture was donated to People’s Kitchen to create a community hub and café.

Even if you can’t quite match what the V&A are doing, there are smaller ways that we can all start to make changes; the V&A have formed an environmental steering group, with green champions in departments across the museum, and they have nearly reached full representation of all teams.

Some small internal initiatives have started to make a difference:
·         Giving out keep-cups to staff to reduce waste
·         Using recycled and recyclable materials as much as possible
·         Reducing their paper use by 9% so far 
·         Promoting online platforms for data sharing rather than distributing paper copies
Looking to the future, the V&A are continuing to explore creative ways to dispose of their waste products and hope to be able to share their experience and knowledge to help others follow their lead.

Abi Pole, Exhibitions Manager, Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park

UKRG: Think Green - Sharing sustainable practice

Sharing sustainable practice. Sustainable Exhibitions for Museums. 
Zoe Louizos, Exhibitions Manager, V&A and Nadine Loach, Registrar, Science Museum Group

SEFM (Sustainable Exhibitions For Museums) began in early 2000s as a collaborative network and a proactive think tank promoting sustainable practice. Collaboration was a prominent feature and it was was so useful to get perspective of two organisations with Nadine and Zoe giving an engaging and interactive presentation.

Environmental sustainability in a museum should extend through all the organisations activities and is everyones responsibility. It should also hold equal power when making decisions for an organisation.

It is about creating high quality exhibitions whilst reducing the carbon footprint and impact upon the environment from climate control to exhibition build. I liked the questions being asked of us in terms of what does sustainability mean to you personally, for your role and the organisation you work for.

Public knowledge and opinion is well formed and this should influence the way we work, in striving to improve our carbon footprint and also the relevance of museums in society today and in the future.

One of the questions posed to the attendees was the notion about sharing how museums and galleries operate sustainably and the type of information shared with the public. Most organisations represented had sustainability policies, however far fewer had a document or information that can be viewed. If I could pick one thing to take back to my line managers is how we share our sustainability policies at work with visitors; to encourage positive dialogue and engender support for the way we work.

A very interesting blog Curating Tomorrowby Henry McGhie is well worth checking out and he has literally today as I type just published a post with some great signposts to further information as well as lessons learnt by the sector: 


Also this week, a meeting was held to re-launch SEFM, although I wasnt able to attend, Im really excited to hear about the outcomes of the meeting. The network has a website: www.sustainable-exhibitions.co.uk  Its worth taking a look at and long term will be a vital component for sharing information across the sector.
The challenge is to look at how we can gain maximum benefit from the networks support in creating the momentum essential for positive debate and generating practical solutions. As a sector, I think we need to be quite daring in our actions and I believe the support of SEFM and museum colleagues is crucial to individual organisations. The means by which the information is disseminated is also critical. There is the potential to extend beyond a Museum and London centric focus and I think to achieve this would broaden the range of organisations, increasing the benefit to the environment.

The overarching theme of sustainability has really hit home for me as an individual. I thought I was a pretty green person, recycling where I can. Post meeting I feel that simply doesnt go far enough and we have both individual and collective responsibility to do more, think and act differently.

Contact details for Nadine and Zoe:
Nadine Loach, Registrar, Science Museum Group nadine.Loach@sciencemuseum.ac.uk
Zoe Louizos, Exhibitions Manager, V&A Z.Louizos@vam.ac.uk

Rachel Coman

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

UKRG Event: Think Green - Can we cut it?

Can we cut it? Manchester Museums Partnership’s Response to the Climate Emergency.
Phillippa Milner, Senior Gallery Registrar, Manchester Art Gallery and Gillian Smithson, Registrar, The Whitworth & Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum

Manchester City Council has committed to reduce the carbon footprint of the city to zero, twelve years ahead of the UK government’s target. In this session, Phillippa Milner and Gillian Smithson explored Manchester Museums Partnership’s initial response to this challenge.

The key is to change the way we think, but is it possible to move away from our current focus on consumption, growth and finance based economy? Can we do this whilst also fulfilling our purpose of sharing collections? Phillippa and Gillian did not pretend to have the answers to these difficult, complex questions, but by sharing examples of the work they have been doing, they were able to offer inspiration and encouragement.

It has been calculated that in Manchester, museums and heritage contribute less than 1% towards the overall carbon footprint of the city, so it could be very easy to think ‘why bother?’. However, there is a strong argument that museums are ideally placed to share knowledge and show that change is possible.

Declaring a climate emergency in 2019 is just one of the steps Manchester Museums Partnerships have taken over the past decade. In 2014, each member of staff received a full day of training on climate change, carbon footprints and how everyone can do their bit. This work with the Carbon Literacy Project contributed to them being the world’s first Carbon Literate Museum. Their public programming reflects this focus on creating a sustainable world with exhibitions such as ‘Climate Control’ and ‘Extinction or Survival’.

They have also started trying to accurately assess the carbon impact of their exhibitions. This involves considering the length of the exhibition, the location of lenders and couriers, as well as more material aspects such as packaging and recycling. As this requires accurate, comprehensive data that has not necessarily been recorded and there is not yet a standardised method for calculating the carbon footprint, this is currently a long process.  

In the meantime, they are moving towards having longer-term exhibitions, fewer overall changes to displays and making more use of their own collection. As part of this, their programming team has been working with local climate-focused groups and organisations. Other initiatives include relaxing environmental conditions for loans out, increasing the use of consolidated transport and significantly reducing the number of couriers by analysing the need to send one, providing better instructions and sharing couriers with other museums. They are now also considering whether the carbon cost of a potential loan should be included in the approval process and whether this would affect their decision.

Whilst acknowledging it is only the start of their carbon-cutting journey and it is a work in progress, through collaboration, research and the sharing of ideas, Gillian and Phillippa are hopeful Manchester Museums Partnership can inspire all registrars to respond to the climate emergency. 

Rebecca Drummond, Assistant Registrar, National Museums Scotland

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

UKRG Event: Think Green - Sustainable touring exhibitions

Sustainable touring exhibitions, current practices at the Science Museum Group. 
Emily Cronin, Partnerships Manager, Cultural & Commercial Partnerships, Science Museum Group
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum

The Science Museum Group touring exhibitions started in 2013 and they travelled to over 40 countries around the world.
Their exhibitions typically last approximately five years allowing them to reach a large audience and limit the carbon footprint compared to single exhibitions.

Their touring exhibitions follow a sustainability model which includes using sustainable materials; trying to recycle touring exhibitions materials across the Science Museum Group sites or offering them to other venues; recycling what cannot be reused and employing contractors with sustainability in mind for example transport companies which reuse crates.

The Science Museum Group created the Blueprint Pack Exhibitions in order to increase sustainability for touring exhibitions. The Blueprint Pack consists in digital packages which are sent to the institutions hosting the exhibitions. Each pack contains the content, digital assets, research and design based on the exhibitions produced by the Science Museum Group and already displayed at one of their sites. The Blueprint Pack Exhibitions can fit a variety of spaces and each hiring institution can choose the materials for fabrication.

There are no physical objects lent with the Blueprint Pack Exhibitions and institutions can choose objects from their own collections or objects from local institutions which means the carbon footprint for transport is inexistent or significantly low.
The Science Museum Group Blueprint Pack exhibitions have travelled extensively creating collaborations with institutions as far as China, Mexico, U.S.A, Argentina, India, Russia and Singapore.

Sustainability remains a work in progress with possibility for further future developments.   
Emily stressed the importance for registrars to incorporate sustainability requirements in the tender documents for contractors and concluded her presentation leaving us thinking on some ideas to be more sustainable. These include legacy projects for example making temporary installations/artworks permanent, transform objects for other uses and recycle and reuse.

Greta Gasacci, registrar National Galleries of Scotland

UKRG Event: Think Green - Building a Better Box

Building a Better Box
Andrew Stramentov, CEO and Founder of ROKBOX
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum

The traditional wooden packing crate is a source of a huge amount of waste in exhibition-making, with most cases being disposed of after use. ROKBOX has been developed as a reusable alternative for transporting two-dimensional artworks, and the company’s founder Andrew Stramentov talked us though its evolution.

As well as a desire to make art transport more environmentally sustainable, Andrew drew on his previous experience in the sector of when things go wrong with conventional crates – from a painting becoming loose and sustaining irrevocable damage due to the wrong screws being used, to water getting in through a crack during a rainstorm – to look for opportunities to improve them. He also pointed out, rather amusingly, that wood isn’t a go-to protective material in other areas; we don’t wear wooden helmets, lock our valuables in wooden safes, or strap children into wooden car seats. He obtained funding to found his business around five years ago, describing the environment for startups in the UK as supportive.

Andrew and his team began by collecting information to further inform the development of ROKBOX. They spoke to insurers to gather data on accidents involving standard crates, reviewed relevant literature, and consulted with museum and gallery professionals on why things sometimes go wrong, and what could be done better. Their findings were used to create a prototype, working with industrial designers Glenelg who brought an objective, non-art perspective to the project.

The new product was then tested to measure how well it performed against other crates in a specialist testing facility, and independently validated by an engineering academic from the University of Leicester. The case was subjected to dropping, vibrations, water immersion, forklift impact and temperature and relative humidity variations, amongst other things – an expensive and lengthy process. In terms of its environmentally friendly objectives, Andrew explained that, as well as being reusable, the lightweight design translates to a lower carbon footprint because of the reduced energy required to transport it.

Hearing about the journey to create ROKBOX was fascinating, and it’s encouraging to see people working on practical solutions to reduce the impact of art transportation on the environment, as well as potentially reducing risk to works. ROKBOX cases have been sold to a number of galleries and transport agents, and the product range is currently being expanded. It will be very interesting to follow how ROKBOX works in practice as it is rolled out, in terms of considerations such as cost, institutional and lender expectations, and flexibility.

Denise Courcoux, Assistant Exhibitions Registrar, Tate Liverpool

UKRG Event: Think Green - Towards Sustainable Shipping

Martin Speed Ltd. – Towards Sustainable Shipping
Simon Sheffield Executive Chairman of Martinspeed Ltd.
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum

When lending and borrowing works of art who is responsible for sustainability and who pays – the lender? Borrower? Shipper?  This question was posed by Simon Sheffield during his presentation on Martinspeed’s efforts toward sustainable shipping. Sustainability is expensive and time consuming but as the quote on the Martinspeed website puts it, ‘one small step by everyone can help to change everything’.

We all have a shared responsibility and in 2010 Martinspeed committed to theirs in setting out their Environmental Policy (see link below).  Simon took us through the various areas of sustainable progress within the company:

Crating and packaging
The company hasn’t sent any wooden crates to landfill in ten years. This has been achieved firstly by re-using them. A dedicated recycling team drives around London, (in an electric van), to schools, allotments, carpenter’s workshops, universities and so on.  Notably, Martinspeed provided all the timber for the temporary shelter constructed following the Grenfell Tower fire.
They have also produced new flight cases (speed cases) which can be refitted for each use and house multiple works. Poly takes 500 years to decompose and lets off harmful gases as it does so. Martinspeed re-use it where possible and if it can’t then it is baled using one of the companies’ compactors along with other packing materials such as cardboard and then sent for recycling.

Fuel reduction
They have invested in 22 new vehicles that meet the EURO 6 standard, this includes electric vehicles and charging facilities. In addition to this they consolidate loads where possible – this is something that Museums and Galleries can contribute to with good forward planning and a flexible attitude. They work closely with other agents across Europe, utilising road freight shuttles and consolidating or backloading vehicles where possible.

Warehouses and offices
The theme of consolidation continues with Martinspeed’s buildings. The company has worked to consolidate its warehouses, three of which occupy the same road. This has reduced vehicle runs between buildings and therefore reduced emissions.  Their most recent warehouse has been designed with sustainably in mind; solar panels on the roof (there are solar panels on all of the stores rooves), intelligent LED lighting in offices and warehouses (reducing usage by half), thermal insulation and water collectors.  The offices are also moving toward becoming paperless.  In 2016 they were using 1 million sheets, they have now halved that number by using an integrated IT system, barcoding, 4G scanners and storing information on servers. 

Sustainability can be overwhelming. Where do we start? At Martinspeed they started by bringing in consultants to assess their warehouses and offices. This gave a clear idea of what they needed to tackle. Following a question from the audience Simon clarified that the drive for change at Martinspeed came from the top – the ideal scenario. Some of the other speakers gave an insight into change instigated further down the hierarchy, both examples equally inspiring. The overriding message is that we all need to get involved wherever we sit within our organisations. Thanks to Simon and the other speakers for inspiring us to do just that.

Emily Goalen, Loans Officer, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

UKRG Event: AGM & Loans in - Negotiating loans in

I’ll make an offer you can’t refuse – negotiating loans in. 
Carol Burnier, Exhibitions Registrar, Tate Modern
UKRG AGM & Loans in, Friday 18th October 2019

Carol summarised the world of loans in as “expect the unexpected”. You don’t have complete control as owners and lenders have their own requirements and expectations. Where these differ from what we might be willing or able to accept then the exhibition registrar needs to negotiate solutions. An average exhibition at Tate has about 50 lenders and between 100-200 loan objects.  That’s a lot of negotiating but it is normally successful. It is rare that works must be dropped from exhibition lists because it has not been possible to meet lenders requirements.

Key to success is the involvement of exhibition registrars at least two years ahead of the exhibition opening (longer if it is a tour and Tate are the first venue) Firstly the exhibition registrars review the list of proposed lenders and advise the management team of the likely requirements of known lenders. If one of the Tate registrars hasn’t worked with a specific lender before then they can reach out to the rest of the team including colleagues at Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. Often Tate are borrowing from the same pool of lenders, so requirements are familiar, and relationships already established. Of course, there will always be new lenders, and this is where the unknown element comes in. Lenders may have unique requirements around many aspects, such as shipping, display methods, security, couriers or per diems.

It is important to recognise that negotiation styles vary widely across the world. UK registrars are very solution focused and we have the flexibility to make changes, sometimes this flexibility is not an option for other organisations. Some registrars have very strict processes within which they must operate. Carol recalls being asked in one case for a utility bill to prove that Tate existed!

It is important to establish and open, honest and collaborative dialogue. Sometimes asking the lender and open questions such as “how do you think we can move this forward” will elicit a solution. If you see something is going to be a problem try and come up with a solution before discussing it – don’t present problems, present solutions!

It is important to know and understand the GIS guidelines as you will need to be able to confidently explain these to lenders who are unfamiliar with them. Getting lenders to accept indemnity is especially important for national institutions as they need DCMS permission to use commercial insurance. Remember that sometimes confusion can arise with international lenders over immunity and indemnity!

If you have built up a good relationship with the lender during the run up to the exhibition then if things go wrong in the final phase (such as cargo shipments being bumped by horses!) the relationship you have built up will help the lender trust you.

Many situations are not always black and white, there are a lot of grey areas, and this is where you use your experience or reach out to colleagues and the wider UKRG network for support if required.

Carol finished of by summarising the key points “trust your experience, reach out to the expertise around you and expect the unexpected”

Thanks to Carol for sharing her knowledge and to Blackwall Green for the travel bursary.

Jacqui Austin, Lead Registrar: Loans, touring & partnerships, National Galleries of Scotland