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SUSTAINING
THE
AESTHETIC:


The
environmentally
sustainable


development
of
cultural
exhibitions





Carole
Hammond,
2009


ABSTRACT:

In mid 2008, the interpretation of visual culture was the core function of 1,184 museum and
gallery organisations, operating from 1,456 locations across Australia. The results of $36
million dollars spent on delivering exhibitions in the 2007/08 year was enjoyed by millions of
visitors from across the world. Museums and galleries in that same year generated nearly one
billion dollars. Yet, despite this being an enormously successful and dynamic industry, there
has been little research undertaken in the area of environmental sustainability for
organisations who engage in the care and display of precious and rare objects. Cultural
organisations, like many others, are addressing their impacts upon the environment, but the
question has to be asked: how does this social revolution take place?

The cultural organisation and the discipline of display has evolved steadily over hundreds of
years, and it is clear the next revolution is already upon us – that of shifting our operations to
meet the demands of the environment we both interpret and utilise. Every year in Australia,
over 31 million visitors and 63 million online visitors have the potential to be exposed to and
appreciate the environmental responsibilities accepted by organisations interpreting the past,
present and future of their social and natural worlds.

This report performs an environmental dissection of cultural organisations’ exhibition and


display focus, and explores the intricate paths to be taken – from strategic plans,
organisational change, principles to guide and tools to use. The report also inspects eco-
exhibition case studies, and delves beyond the facade of some commonly used materials and
equipment, along with examining some innovative eco-alternatives.