How museums can become more ecologically sustainable

Ecological sustainability has become a key issue in museum-related work. The museums in the Basel region are taking steps to live up to this social responsibility.

The climate crisis is real. Its complexity demands that the cultural sector, too, re-examines its activities on an ongoing basis. Global, national and regional ecological thinking and acting is required at all levels of museum and exhibition operations.

Joint efforts

In line with the cantonal climate protection strategy, the museen basel association is determined to make a joint and active contribution to reaching the net-zero goal by 2037. To achieve this, museums have to take measures to save resources and generally make their operations more ecologically sustainable. Although each museum will continue to implement specific measures of its own, the challenges also need to be faced collectively and at all levels of museum-related work, requiring fresh ways of thinking and innovative approaches.


In their new workshop tool entitled Ohne Netz kein Werk (no work without net), Basel’s museums are for the first time jointly addressing the issue of ecological sustainability. The mutual exchange so far has revealed a lot of commitment and shown that a number of operational measures to enhance sustainability are in the planning stages or have already been implemented. Certain museums have already set up work groups that deal with this issue in a systematic way. Institutional change at a museum can only be brought about through collaboration among the entire staff, as well as by letting old habits go and accepting new approaches to saving resources.

Building on regular exchange among the museums, the museen basel association is determined to tackle the issue of sustainability effectively – not merely through a few isolated gestures – and over the long term. The initial focus will be on sustainability in creating exhibitions. Besides the consensus to share knowledge and experience, a proposal has been put forward to set up a swap system to boost the re-use of materials, construction parts and design elements.

Museums have the power to make a positive impact on sustainability in our society. They can do so by aligning their operations accordingly, by their selection of exhibitions and outreach programmes, by adjusting their collection strategy and by conducting associated research.

Addressing issues and raising awareness – the role of design in today’s energy transition
Addressing issues and raising awareness – the role of design in today’s energy transition
Credits: Photo: Vitra Design Museum
Addressing issues and raising awareness – the role of design in today’s energy transition
A creative and resource-saving approach to the use of materials at the exhibition ‘Immer ich?! Eine etwas andere Reise zu dir’ (Always me?! A somewhat different journey to you)