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Wednesday, May 28 • 4:30pm - 6:30pm
(Pre-Meeting Session) “Energy and sustainability – at what cost?” - A Socratic Dialogue

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The term “sustainability” is the theme of the AIC annual meeting 2014 in San Francisco. Sustainability can have a number of different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. It can refer to energy and cost savings, the “green” museum or “green” conservation, the use and disposal of environmentally friendly conservation materials and chemicals, and even the ultimate meaning of conservation and preservation themselves, that is, extending the life of objects themselves. However, at the annual business meeting 2013 the word sustainability immediately unleashed a brief but intense discussion on standards for indoor climates in museums, this related to making climate requirements less stringent and thus to reduce energy costs. This should not come as a surprise, as the idea of loosening indoor climate requirements for indoor collections has been a controversial issue for years. The controversy revolves around a number of issues including:
  • the desire to cut costs in museums by loosening with stringent indoor climate requirements/standards which require expensive HVAC systems
  • what the new requirements/standards should be
  • what effect these new standards would be on a (partial) collection or specific type of object.

    • what is the value of efforts and methods to save energy costs for museums and indoor collections, and at what cost?
    • is loosening indoor climate requirements bad for a collection?

      • what do we mean with the word sustainability?

      • what is the value of sustainability and at what cost?

      • It is proposed that this discussion be held in the form of a so-called Socratic dialogue. This is a structured form of dialogue in which all participants actively contribute. The purpose of the dialogue is not to solve the question at hand, that is, specifically define what sustainability is and what it costs, but to investigate each other’s experience and opinions related to sustainablity, and to try to determine the essence behind the word. What is it that conservators, conservation scientists, and other cultural heritage professionals are concerned about when they discuss indoor climate requirements, and why is it so controversial? What is the essence of the word “sustainability” in that context? The Socratic dialogue will help the participants understand what is behind the this discussion revolving around energy, sustainability and museum/storage climate, and understand their own points of view as well as those of others.

        This Socratic dialogue is the second in a continuing series. It follows up the dialogue on value held at the 2013 annual meeting. The concept of “value” also lies behind the sustainability/energy issue, making the proposed dialogue an ideal follow-up to last year’s dialogue. The response to last year’s dialogue was quite positive. The participants were happy that they could openly discuss issues surrounding restoration decisions made in restoration without aggression. One participant summed it up in her essence: “I leave better able to articulate the societal importance of what we do and secure in the knowledge that others grapple with the same issues.”

    • and more generally,

  • A workshop/discussion session is thus proposed for the 2014 AIC annual meeting to investigate the essence behind questions on sustainability related to indoor collection climates and energy savings. It will look at questions such as:


Session Moderator(s)
avatar for Dr. W. (Bill) Wei

Dr. W. (Bill) Wei

Senior Conservation Scientist, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed
Dr. Wei is a senior conservation scientist in the Research Department of the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE), and was recently named program manager for the program “Sustainable Heritage. He continues to conduct research into the effects of cleaning and treatments of objects on their appearance, including: | The use of non-contact roughness measurements to study surface changes, as well as for the identification of objects... Read More →

Wednesday May 28, 2014 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Seacliff B

Attendees (38)