Sustainability & Historic House Museums

Early in February, 60+ museum professionals met in Miami, Florida, for a joint summit, Sustainability: Governance, Relevance, and the Environment. Their hosts were Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and two of AAM’s professional networks: Historic Houses and Sites Network and Environment & Climate Network.

Gardens at Vizcaya – careful and regular pruning helps protect trees from storm damage which helps protect statuary from tree damage. Resilience planning is good museum practice.

I was thrilled by the strength of engagement by all around environmental sustainability. Though the program started off with a “level set” to be sure people had a common grounding in understanding, once there was time for questions, participants went right to hard-hitting topics about sustainability funders beyond NEH (not so much specifically but many, generally, who fund it as business as usual); about sustainability as a certification; and about sustainable practice development through StEPs (at AASLH…underway) and as a part of Accreditation (through AAM…um, no, but I sense a strengthening movement!).

Participants had important examples, such as The CLEO Institute and its very valuable work to educate the public. What a great partner they’d be for us all – imagine, giving Representatives inundation maps of their districts… 🙂 Susan Funk of Mystic Seaport explained that though the Seaport doesn’t have “climate change” in its strategic plan, “relevance” is, so climate change is relevant. With nine 50-year flood events in 2018 compared to just one in 2017 and two in 2016, the Seaport understands the gravity of the situation.

If you’d like more examples from the Summit, AASLH’s Chief of Operations, Bethany Hawkins, provides a great recap and important links on here including some to important sustainability initiatives through AASLH and its membership. There were two full days of tours, presentations, and break-out events, not to mention stunning hospitality by Vizcaya’s staff.

Thank you to the volunteer network leaders and the many staff at Vizcaya for making this such a marvelous program, and to the sponsors for help bringing some attendees on scholarships and a new voice, Andrew Potts, from DC. We’ll provide links to the powerpoint materials, videos of keynotes, and other resource materials ASAP.

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