The cultural sector plays a fundamental role in the climate crisis and its actions have a significant outcome. Ki Culture is an international nonprofit organization working to unite culture and sustainability. The program works to enable the creation of policies to reduce carbon footprints, collaboratively decolonize institutions and practices, create inclusive, accessible spaces, promote sector-wide circular solutions and implementations, and incorporate all voices in collections and programs. In a recent article by Alex Marshall in the New York Times titled “As Energy Costs Bite, Museums Rethink a Conservation Credo”, Ki Culture’s new initiative Getting Climate Control Under Control is credited with being an innovative and critical step in helping museums relax their strict climate control conditions, the most carbon-intensive practice in the cultural world.
According to Ki Culture’s founder and executive director, Caitlin Southwick, the concept of preserving art in a climate-controlled setting is relatively new. We are able to trace the normalization of temperature and humidity controls just after World War II. According to Alex Marshall, The Yale University Art Gallery in the United States was one of the first buildings to use climate control technology in 1874, followed shortly after by the British Gallery. When articles outlining the necessary conditions for safeguarding the piece of art were published, they were quickly mainstreamed after being taken out of context. Even now, a number of western museums use sophisticated and expensive climate control techniques to preserve artifacts. Climate monitors, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers are just a few examples of energy-intensive devices that typically operate invisibly around the clock.
But today, times have changed. Major institutions are reevaluating their orthodoxies in light of the effects these climate control technologies have on the planet. In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and Europe’s rising energy and gas prices, sustainability for museums has turned the long-term issue into a financial threat.
Last year, Ki Culture conducted an online survey to collect data on the current climate protocols adopted by art galleries and museums around the world. Along with other questions, the survey mainly investigated the climate control standards, the spaces which implement them, and the utilization of microclimates. The collected data was presented at the first International Climate Control Conference, organized by Ki Culture in collaboration with Gallery Climate Coalition in December. The event outlined the current state of climate control globally, the data behind the new scientific-based protocols, and the best practice to get climate control conditions in check.
Climate control can account for 60% or more of a museum or gallery’s energy use, according to the Getting Climate Control Under Control declaration, an initiative launched by Tino Seghal, Art 2030, and Ki Culture at the ICCC. The declaration aims to commit the cultural sector to relax their climate control conditions.
After the first International Climate Control Conference, Ki Culture in collaboration with Articheck and Conserv launched an 18-month pilot program titled ‘Getting Climate Control Under Control’ to help cultural institutions turn their commitment to change into actions. The currently ongoing pilot program aims to collectively reduce museums’ carbon footprint by addressing their climate control practices. The approach aims to provide tailored climate control adjustment and implementation plans. Enrolling in the pilot program will get you access to:
- Guidance on adjusting your climate control conditions and loan agreements
- Full access to the Ki Futures program
- Full access to the Articheck digital conditioning report
- Access to data loggers
The program may help you save 24% to 82% on your energy costs and improve the energy efficiency of your systems by cutting your carbon emissions in half. Along with the program, data will be gathered over the course of 18 months to create case studies that you can share with the larger museum community to establish yourself as thought leaders. Here is a picture of the program’s established timeline, which spans several months:
- Initially, all the participants will be introduced and teams will be formed
- In the first 3–6 months, participants will have the opportunity to:
- Receive individual coaching sessions with the coaches
- Design an outline of their journey based on the parameters of the pilot program
- Attend workshops and courses
- Upload their data and condition reports
- During the journey, the participants will:
- Implement the changes they have learned about so far
- Attend bi-monthly one-on-one meetings with their coaches
- Participate in international meetings with all the coaches and participants
- Attend workshops and courses
- In the final phase, the participants will receive:
- Final condition reports and assessments
- Opportunity to attend the second International Climate Control Conference
- A presentation of case studies and methodology
We must address the climate control and loan agreement situations at our individual institutions and across the cultural sector in accordance with the Paris Agreement and the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal №13, “Climate Action,” to uphold the world’s commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. In order to continue being effective change agents, we actively engage in addressing the climate crisis by being open and transparent about our own behavior. Museums are unable to make changes on their own because by doing so, they could lose access to foreign loans or raise concerns about the standards of care for their collections. That is why a collective approach is necessary to address this sector-wide problem.
The future will be grateful for the necessary step you took today.
Need help in turning your commitment into action? Join the Ki Futures ‘Getting Climate Control Under Control’ Pilot Program. Starting January 2023, this 18-month Pilot provides coaching and training for your entire staff and walks your museum through the process of actually changing your climate control conditions. Guided by leading experts in preventive conservation and energy efficiency, and focused on collective action, the Pilot Program will ensure that your transition to more environmentally sustainable practices also maintains the best preservation conditions for your collections.
For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrunali Shah is a final-year bachelor’s student enrolled in the International Communication and Media Program at Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Mechelen, Belgium. She is currently doing her internship at KiCulture working as a Social Media Intern. She has been working on numerous marketing and communications related group projects for companies such as Beyond Meat, Start2run, De Speld, Webfaster, and LEGO throughout her bachelor years.