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9. Sustainability

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Sustainability has become a 'hot' item in Museum studies. Until recently, it was all about environmental sustainability: how green is a Museum ? How large (or small) its environmental or ecological footprint: the effect that the Museum has on the environment in the short term and long term?

Organisational sustainability on the other hand is not so much about the future of our planet, but about the future of a Museum. How to keep the Museum going for another year, for 5 more years, or longer?

Because of the energy crisis, these two kinds of sustainability have become one. Museums must cut down on energy costs for heating and lighting, to be able to balance their budget. 

What can Museums do, to keep going and to keep attracting visitors? There is of course no 'one size fits all' advice. Some suggestions: 

    • Invest in visitor research to find out what works and what doesn't work in your Museum.
    • Keep applying for funding.
    • Keep investing in sponsors, friends, members.
    • Keep investing in volunteers.
    • Keep energy and maintenance costs down: use led lighting, turn down heating or air conditioning, don't heat or cool rooms that are not used. 
    • Keep investing in exhibits and exhibition design; keep the Museum up to date. Or better yet: make it a trendsetter. Experiment with interactivity, immersion, gamification.  
    • Keep investing in visitors, in promotion, in marketing, in social media.
    • Try to attract new audiences.
    • Try new opening times: evening visits, night visits?
    • Organise regular 'blockbuster' exhibitions that result in a lot of attention, funding, income.
    • Organise special events that will generate a lot of attention: tours, workshops, conferences. 
    • Collaborate with other Museums: share resources, exhibits, equipment, people.

 Further Reading:

The Sustainability of Deaf Museums

The Sustainability of Deaf Museums

During the 2 years of our project, two Deaf Museums had to close down. The Brother Leothard Deaf Museum in Belgium, and the Museum of Deaf Education (Museum voor Dovenonderwijs) in the Netherlands. In both cases because the buildings where these Museums were located, were sold.

Most of the remaining Deaf Museums are worried about the future. In our survey, we asked a question about the future of the Museum.  Peter Jones' (Deaf Heritage Centre UK, April 2022) answer:

"We live from hand to mouth and could collapse any time."

Our question, and the answers of all respondents:

What about the future of your Museum?  What are future risks, future opportunities? 

Kuurojen museo

We are at the moment planning our new basic exhibition and what kind of feedback we get from our customers is a signpost for our future exhibitions.

Taking children and young people into account is an opportunity for us.

Norsk Døvemuseum

Future risks are the location of the Museum since we don’t own the building.

Future opportunities are the political interest in the museum and also the general focus on minorities.

Musée d'Histoire et de Culture des Sourds As the museum relies on volunteers, the risk is what the volunteers can do. If there are no more volunteers, a solution will have to be found with the support of the National Federation of the Deaf of France.
Deaf Heritage Centre UK The future of our Museum depends heavily on securing grant income. We live from hand to mouth and could collapse any time.
Døvehistorisk Selskab

If the school for the deaf wants to close, we will have a problem with the rooms we use now.


Piet Borneman, curator of the Museum of Deaf Education in the Netherlands, after all exhibits had been put in storage, November 2021, see his interview elsewhere on this website. 






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