The Red Green Exhibit

No duct tape was used in the making of this exhibit. I happen to know more than one person who wraps a banana peel in duct tape around a body part to remove warts. My response to this home remedy is, What toxic combination of tropical enzymes and chemical adhesives contributes to the degeneration of the wart or wen? That’s a rhetorical question, because I don’t want to know.

Toxicity = bad. We try to avoid it when installing a new exhibit, and there is a helpful tool to help us in that effort: The Green Exhibit Checklist. I first learned about the Checklist at a very informative workshop on “Green Exhibits” at the 2011 New England Museum Association Annual Conference, held in Hartford. The Checklist was created by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (see exhibitseed.org) as “a tool to evaluate the environmental sustainability of exhibits,” with 5 key strategies:

  •  reduce new material consumption
  •  use local resources
  •  reduce waste
  •  reduce energy consumption
  •  reduce products with toxic emissions

As you can see, it’s the whole package, not just toxicity-avoidance. The Checklist is a self-evaluation (could have used some of those in high school), and our Interpretive Projects department has applied it to our last three temporary exhibits at the CHS, including the current “This Won’t Hurt a Bit! A History of Pain Relief.”

A few highlights from the “test”:

Reduce new material consumption. We reuse these black frames a lot, and we bring extras to our local frame shop to cut and make new ones to size.

Reduce new material consumption. We reuse these black frames a lot, and we bring extras to our local frame shop to cut and make new ones to size.

Use local resources. These platforms were built (AND donated!) by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester for a previous exhibit. HANDMADE QUALITY. And we will reuse them for years to come.

Use local resources. These platforms were built (AND donated!) by the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking in Manchester for a previous exhibit. HANDMADE QUALITY. And we will reuse them for years to come.

Reduce waste. These vinyl banners are bad news, environmentally speaking. Toxic emitting, landfill occupiers. But we recycle them into one-of-a-kind tote bags to sell in our museum store. Buy one today!

Reduce waste. These vinyl banners are bad news, environmentally speaking. Toxic emitting, landfill occupiers. But we recycle them into one-of-a-kind tote bags to sell in our museum store. Buy one today!

Reduce energy consumption. Notice how our energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate this quote by Dr. Horace Wells, the discoverer of anesthesia. The energy savings are somewhat dimmed by the use of the vinyl lettering. Still room for improvement.

Reduce energy consumption. Notice how our energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate this quote by Dr. Horace Wells, the discoverer of anesthesia. The energy savings are somewhat dimmed by the use of the vinyl lettering. Still room for improvement.

Reduce products with toxic emissions. Zero-VOC paint. Why would anyone use anything else?

Reduce products with toxic emissions. Zero-VOC paint. Why would anyone use anything else?

Every piece of the exhibit (except the actual artifacts) was evaluated on the Green Exhibit Checklist, and in the end we received a Gold rating (on a scale of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze). We’re still working on improving our rating, and possibilities include printing labels on biodegradable foam core with soy-based ink and investigating “green” alternatives to vinyl-based products. Organic duct tape anyone?

Ben Gammell is the Coordinator of Interpretive Projects at the Connecticut Historical Society

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3 thoughts on “The Red Green Exhibit

  1. Pingback: Nooks of CHS | inside the CHS

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