18 May 2023

Today, the world celebrates International Museum Day. The Museum Day tradition dates back to 1977, when the International Council of Museums (ICOM) first held this event. Each year, ICOM dedicates Museum Day to a specific theme relevant in the museum field. For 2023, the global organisation with 50,000 members selected the theme “Museums, Sustainability and Well-being”.

To celebrate this year’s theme, ICOM Estonia hosted a seminar on 15 May for Estonian museums, where representatives of several other fields talked about what they do to reduce their environmental footprint. The event brought good news for museum fans in Tartu: three of the town’s museums were awarded the title of Green Museum. The Estonian National Museum, the Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden of the University of Tartu and the University of Tartu Museum are now the proud owners of this title.

 The green museum certification system was co-developed by the Stockholm Environmental Institute Tallinn Centre (SEI Tallinn) and the Estonian National Committee of ICOM. The certificates themselves are issued based on this system by the Estonian Association for Environmental Management. All Estonian museums valuing sustainability and environmental protection are free to apply, regardless of size and field of activity. Kumu Art Museum was the first Estonian museum to receive the Green Museum title in 2022.

 According to Agnes Aljas, chair of the Estonian National Committee of ICOM, the Green Museum designation and the underlying system serve to help museums make their activities more environmentally sustainable in all areas of activity – “A Green Museum aims to adopt a sustainable approach in both the cultivation and the preservation of museum collections, the planning of exhibitions as well as in the preparation of educational programmes; that is, throughout the entire work cycle. The first step is usually to map the current state of the museum from a sustainability perspective, and define what needs to change; from there, we take calculated steps to make the museum deliberately sustainable in all its activities. The purpose of museums is to preserve and protect cultural heritage. This makes it only appropriate that we show the same attention and care to the environment in which we operate. Reducing our environmental footprint is a matter of our common, shared responsibility, and from a practicality point of view among Estonians, it also makes sense.”

The Green Museum certificate goes beyond acknowledging how well a museum has done so far; the title also signifies that the museum has a clear understanding of what further steps it needs to take to enhance its daily operations with a focus on environmental consciousness and sustainability. All aspects of the museum’s work need to be carefully considered, including the management of the museum building and collections, oversight of environmental activities, engagement of employees and interest groups, organisation of exhibitions, events, and museum education, as well as addressing social responsibility issues.

More information (in Estonian): https://ekja.ee/et/roheline-muuseum 

More information: https://www.icomeesti.ee/eng/green-museum

ICOM Estonia continues to organise Green Museum training as more and more Estonian museums are applying for the title of Green Museum.  More information (in Estonian): https://www.icomeesti.ee/keskkonna-tooruhm 

More information: Reet Mägi, reet.magi@ut.ee, Head of ICOM Estonia’s Working Group of Environmental Sustainability