Resource-sharing & the circular economy at the V&A.
Zoë Louizos, Exhibitions Manager
Friday 7th February 2020 National Army Museum
As we face a climate emergency, it is increasingly recognised that museums can play a crucial role in engaging and empowering people to challenge current practice. As a museum of art and design, the V&A strongly feel that these issues can, and should, be tackled creatively.
Zoë Louizos, from the V&A, came to talk about different ways to tackle the disposal of exhibition waste products; a problem that we all face on a regular basis due the current throwaway nature of exhibition design.
At the V&A there has been a positive move to try and share resources, which would otherwise be disposed of, with those in need who wouldn’t normally be able to access these materials.
Smaller examples include:
· Giving terrariums to schools
· Sending textile waste to a women’s refuge where it can be used to create products for sale
· Donating scenery flats to festivals
· Gifting plinths, perspex hoods and cradles to small local museums
However, it’s their surplus crates that have provided the V&A with the most scope for creative re-purposing:
· Beehives on the roof of the museum
· Used for DT projects in schools
· Building materials for adventure playgrounds
And for two major projects:
In 2019 the V&A collaborated with the 999 Club, an advice & support service and night shelter for the homeless, to upcycle crates into furniture. Eight people, who had previously been homeless, were paired with designers to create a piece of furniture that they could use when they were able to move on from the 999 Club to new, temporary accommodation. The completed pieces of furniture, which included a sewing table, writing bureau, bench with shelving and a bed, were displayed at the London Design Festival.
As part of the Day of Design event, which focussed on design solutions to the climate emergency,an open call was sent out for designers to create a range of furniture suitable for community dining, to be used for a Food Waste Feast where a buffet banquet was created from surplus ingredients. Over 300 people were fed down in the Transport for London underpass. Following the event, the furniture was donated to People’s Kitchen to create a community hub and café.
Even if you can’t quite match what the V&A are doing, there are smaller ways that we can all start to make changes; the V&A have formed an environmental steering group, with green champions in departments across the museum, and they have nearly reached full representation of all teams.
Some small internal initiatives have started to make a difference:
· Giving out keep-cups to staff to reduce waste
· Using recycled and recyclable materials as much as possible
· Reducing their paper use by 9% so far
· Promoting online platforms for data sharing rather than distributing paper copies
Looking to the future, the V&A are continuing to explore creative ways to dispose of their waste products and hope to be able to share their experience and knowledge to help others follow their lead.
Abi Pole, Exhibitions Manager, Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park