How Art Museums Are Responding to and Preparing for Climate Change
Art museums, like other organizations that maintain collections for public access, face complex challenges from the threat of climate change. Leaders are challenged to assess their collecting practices to both adapt to new variations in temperature and humidity and reduce their practices’ carbon footprints. Facilities, which in some cases are inseparable from their collections (such as gardens or historic houses), face increasing frequency and severity of damage from storms, fires, and rising tides. At the same time, museum directors must confront many other needs with limited resources. How have art museums been affected by climate change already, and what is being done to prepare for the future?
In a new Ithaka S+R issue brief, published today, we explore these questions using results from the 2022 Art Museum Director Survey, building on analysis with new insights from museum directors’ short answer responses to our questions on climate change. We find wide variation in reported damage from and preparations for climate change across US regions. At the same time, a few experiences stand out as most common: storms, extreme weather, and flooding are threatening the stability and safety of museum buildings and grounds. Museums are also taking steps to evaluate their own climate impact, but nearly one-fifth of directors said they did not know where to begin to make such evaluations.
Practices in documenting and responding to climate change are still in development across organizations, and our research finds that art museums are no exception. This is an area where more research and collaboration will benefit the future of the arts and the public good broadly.
If you are interested in connecting with us about this work, you can reach out to Liam Sweeney, senior analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Joanna Dressel, fellow, at email@example.com. We also invite you to attend our session on this topic at the American Alliance of Museums annual meeting on May 21 at 10:50 – 11:15 am MDT.