Museums Taking Leadership Position in Climate Change

Carnegie Science Center of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh – Photo Credit Indovina

Museums can – and are – taking a leadership position in demonstrating that climate change solutions are within reach.  This is evidenced by the recent formation of the 2030 Districts Network’s Museum Best Practices Working Group Cohort and empowered by the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative.

2030 Districts Network

The vision of the 2030 Districts Network is to establish a global network of thriving high-performance building districts and cities, uniting communities to catalyze transformation in the built environment and the role it plays in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Each District commits to meeting 50% reductions in energy, water, and transportation-related emissions as established by Architecture 2030 in its 2030 Challenge for Planning.

Museum Best Practices Working Group

With the goal of carving out a cohort of museum operators to zero in on the unique sustainability issues they face while working towards 2030 goals, the 2030 Network created a Museum Best Practices Working Group in January 2021 for all member museum use types across North America.

“The 2030 Districts Network is the most collaborative group of people I have ever worked with,” states Cynthia Cicigoi, Executive Director, Cleveland 2030 District.  “Understandably, we’re all busy advancing our goals in our local Districts, but the executive directors from all 23 cities came together to find a way to provide additional value to our property partners.  Since museums are so unique in the challenges they face and the way they operate, and since most Districts have museum partners, we thought creating a working group would be a good way to connect them – give them a way to network, share best practices and hear speakers on topics only of interest to them.  The sessions have been well attended and feedback has been very positive.”

Participating museum members* have truly demonstrated their enthusiasm for environmental stewardship and their commitment to operational efficiency.  The objective is to share best practices, expand each institution’s network, and provide educational speakers on topics that are uniquely of interest to museums and the operation of museums.   While 2030 Districts focus on energy, water, transportation emissions, and the maintenance and operation of buildings, specific museum group discussions include other special interests and topics of concern specific to, and guided by the group, in a private and trusted atmosphere with other facilities facing similar challenges.

“As trusted thought leaders within the communities they serve, museums are in a unique position to lead discussions about climate change and environmental sustainability and, most importantly, to lead by example by applying best practices in the preservation of our diverse collections,” says Tony Young, Vice President of Facilities Planning & Operations for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. “This takes on its own unique set of challenges when dealing with older, historic facilities.”

Frankenthaler Climate Initiative

At the inaugural meeting of the Museum Best Practices Working Group Cohort, Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museum’s Environment and Culture Partners  shared information about the  Frankenthaler Climate Initiative grant opportunity – a multi-year grant designed to advance the goal of carbon neutrality in the visual arts.

With the cost of energy being the second largest component of museum budgets, energy efficiency improvements are the best opportunity for museums to reduce emissions and save money at the same time.  Realizing this, the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in partnership with RMI and Environment and Culture Partners created the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative.

The foundation awarded more than $5 million to nearly 80 institutes across 25+ states, and they have dedicated an additional $5 million to be awarded over the next two years.

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh DITT Photo Credit Joshua Franzos

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

One of recipients of this grant funding was the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, who was awarded a grant of $22,000 to conduct an Investment Grade Energy Audit with TEN (of Duquesne Light Holdings, Inc.).  TEN is an independent energy services company that provides energy projects that help make buildings more efficient, make cities smarter, and operations more resilient.

The Audit began in August 2021 and is still under evaluation. The scope of the audit includes equipment upgrades and window replacements for energy reduction.

Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh plans to use the recommendations from this audit to pursue additional funding for implementation of equipment upgrades and/or replacement of new windows for the museum.

“Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has a strong commitment to sustainability—from our commitment to constructing LEED-certified buildings, to our participation in the 2030 District and the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge,” Young says. “We’re extremely grateful to Green Building Alliance’s Pittsburgh 2030 District for sharing information about this grant with us. This is just one of the many ways GBA and the Pittsburgh 2030 District support sustainability and high-performance building initiatives in our region.”

The Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM), was also selected as a Frankenthaler Climate Initiative awardee.  “This is one shining example of how a network of collaborators helps businesses and non-profits go farther in conquering their challenges,” shared Elizabeth Rojas, Cincinnati 2030 District Director, “and this is an important part of CAM’s journey to reduce emissions and work towards their 2030 District goals.”

Thank you to all the 2030 Districts Network’s Museum Best Practices Working Group members for the important work you are doing; and thank you to the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative for helping advance their progress towards sustainability and climate change solutions!


*Participating Museum Members:

  • African American Museum
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
  • Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
  • Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
  • Cincinnati Art Museum
  • Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center
  • Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Contemporary Arts Center
  • Detroit Institute of Arts
  • ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain
  • Erie Art Museum
  • Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
  • Great Lakes Science Center
  • Holden Forest and Gardens
  • Lakeshore Museum Center
  • Michigan Science Center
  • moCa Cleveland
  • National Aviary
  • PA DCNR – Tom Ridge Environmental Center
  • Paleontological Research Institution
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
  • Sciencenter
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc.
  • Witte Museum

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