A new standardised carbon calculator, made to support the creation of temporary and touring exhibitions, is now in the early stages of development.

The Impact Assesment Tool was created as part of a collaboration between the Design Museum and URGE Collective, a multi-disciplinary design group addressing environmental challenges.

It is one of seven recommendations to result from the report, ‘Strategies for Reducing the Carbon Impact of Temporary and Touring Exhibitions in the Museums and Galleries’.

In 2021, the Design Museum invited URGE Collective to collaborate on its ‘Waste Age: What Can Design Do?’ exhibition.

URGE conducted an Environmental Audit of the exhibition, and advised the Design Museum team and the exhibition’s 2D and 3D designers on the design and build of the exhibition. It made suggestions for reducting the carbon impact through material and production choices.

Data gathered via the audit was used to inform an Impact Model carbon calculator. The ‘beta’ version of the tool, created in a spreadsheet, allowed URGE to calculate the exhibition’s carbon footprint before production, and provided benchmarking data and best practice insights for future exhibitions.

The Impact Modell measured the exhibition’s carbon footprint across categories including Project Development, Object Transport, Build/Set-works, Reused Resources, Museum Operations, Waste, and Touring.

Melissa Painter, Head of Sustainability at the V&A was quoted within the report.

“[We would] use this as a planning tool rather than for post-exhibition carbon measurement. We are in the process of getting carbon accounting software which will measure all emissions across our estate and operations, so then we can look at how exhibitions fit within our total emissions. However, for organisations who aren’t doing this, the tool is a good way to put a very thorough measure on carbon impacts for an exhibition.”

Graciela Melitsko Thornton, Creative Green Programme Lead at Julie’s Bicycle added: “There is a real need for a standardised tracker to measure impacts of exhibitions, so it is great to see this developing.”

URGE is trialling an updated version of the Impact Model on the design and build of two permanent galleries at the new V&A East Museum.

The report states: “To maximise adoption across the sector, it is recommended that funding
is sought for the development of a standardised tool for exhibition design and build on a SASS or app model, potentially in collaboration with another provider in the sector.

“If supported by the sector as a whole, this would help allay fears that the tool would not be supported or updated on an on-going, long-term basis.”

The full report is available here 

Student Opps Grant
Back to top