Environmental Sustainability in New Zealand Museums: A Case Study of Te Manawa Museum, Gallery and Science Centre
Environmental sustainability is becoming an increasingly essential component of modern life. The contemporary museums’ role as public educators, and as guardians of tangible and intangible culture, places them in a unique position to address the various issues surrounding environmental sustainability, from climate change, to bio-diversity loss, to conservation. There is increasing momentum behind the idea that museums should not only engage with environmental sustainability, but that they indeed have a responsibility to. Although museums throughout New Zealand are addressing environmental sustainability, there is currently no thorough examination of how they are doing this. Therefore, the aim of this dissertation was so find out the current state of environmental sustainability in New Zealand museums, and specifically how staff are approaching it. Through engaging in a case study of Te Manawa Museum, Gallery and Science Centre, Palmerston North, and specifically the environmentally themed exhibition Te Awa/The River: Heart of the Manawatu, this dissertation analyses and discusses the realities of addressing institutional environmental sustainability. While the previous literature surrounding this topic has addressed the many reasons why museums should engage with environmental sustainability, this dissertation has expanded on this by analysing and discussing the realities of addressing environmental sustainability from a staff perspective. Through interviews with five Te Manawa staff members, this dissertation has revealed that while museum professionals agree that engagement with environmental sustainability should become part of bottom line holistic sustainable development, the status of museums as trusted democratic institutions can place them in a conflicted space ‘in-between’ when dealing with polarising issues such as the environment. This is particularly relevant to the discussion around new-museological theory, and the importance of local context and reflexive community engagement, where the community essentially help drive museological direction and content.