In Lille, the major French museums are looking for their “sustainable model”

Under the pressure of the “climate emergency”, the representatives of French museums spent two days in Lille working on a more environmentally friendly model, with less “spectacular”, but “longer” and “intelligent” exhibitions… and millions of visitors without movement.

“The national low-carbon strategy means net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. We have no choice: everyone has to move”poses at the opening of the works at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, Bruno Maquart, President of Universcience (Cité des Sciences and Palais de la Découverte, in Paris).

If the mobilization of museums is “relatively old” in the United States, it is still in its infancy in France, recalls the administrator of the establishment in Lille, Étienne Bonnet-Candé. However, he welcomes the “pioneering” led by institutions such as the Quai Branly, Universcience, or the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN).

Problem: A large majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from “of the movement of the public”. For museums that attract an international clientele, such as the Louvre, this share rises to 90%. So how do you reconcile the mission of the museum, its transfer to the public and the reduction of its carbon footprint?

Museums should slow down

First we have to “completely reconsider” the “model of the last thirty years”slice Sylvain Amic, director of the Meeting of Metropolitan Museums-Rouen Normandy. “Until now, a successful museum has been a museum of infinite growth, which has been enriched and expanded” and “There were lines of people who came from afar to see paintings that had arrived at great expense from the other side of the world. It is clear that this model is dying out.”.

“Spurts in quest for own resources”the institutions had to “attract more people” to make the figure, the deputy director-general of the Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais (RMN-GP), Emmanuel Marcovitch, who claims “a de-escalation”.

Among the solutions, the “exhibition of event exhibitions”spectacular and short, generates inconsiderate movements of works by plane, in specialized boxes, often air-conditioned, and an overproduction of scenographic elements afterwards “thrown in the trash”.

Museums should also ” to slow down “by extending the duration of exhibitions, counting on a local audience and reducing the number of works presented to give the visitor a “rich scientific subject”. Or rather “the demonstration of intelligence”” , Bee “display of power”according to Sylvain Amik.

Eco-designed scenographies

So the festival “Normandy Impressionists” passed “from a dependency on foreign loans from 50% in 2010 to 3% in 2020”and “from a central exhibition in Rouen” to smaller “in nine cities”allowing “to the public to find what they were looking for where they were”.

Likewise, the Louvre Museum and the RMN-GP have recently produced “18 exhibitions of ten works on the arts of Islam” everywhere in France, in museums, libraries or cultural centers, capturing “a different audience, who would not necessarily have come to Paris”.

It is possible “pool” collections and loans, means of transport and even to create common scenographies “itinerant”in France or in Europe, Julie Bertrand, director of exhibitions at Paris-Musées, also advocates.

Even if “brakes” exist, like “preservation standards”the imposition of a “back to reserve” often after 90 days of exposure, Sylvia Amar remembers the head of the cultural production of the MuCem.

Another popular axis: “ecological design”or a scenography designed upstream to minimize the environmental footprint, from the choice of materials or products used – biosourced, recycled, labeled – to the suspension designed to allow the elements to be recycled or reused.

It has yet to be equipped with technical tools to assess the carbon footprint of the overall operation of museums, an approach where the sector lags behind others, construction or heavy industry. The role of digital is under discussion, because this technology also causes pollution and waste.

“Today we see many initiatives, abundant but scattered”, summarizes the director of ICOM-France (International Council of Museums), Juliette Raoul Duval. It’s necessary now “compare them”to invent “ordinary aids”and maybe national or even international “figures and standards”.


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