Creating a Multifaceted Model for Advancing Sustainability


Our museum’s collections reflect 125+ years of research, education, and industrial collaborations at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State. Over time, the college’s emphasis has evolved from mining engineering to mineral industries and sciences to the advancement of knowledge of Earth processes, natural resources, energy, environment, and sustainability. As the college focus shifted away from traditional natural science object-based research, the museum has modified its use and interpretation of its collections to remain relevant within the college. Taking a critical look at the museums’ mission and collections stewardship practices, the college’s and university’s strategic plans, and the use and interpretation of the museum’s collections in current research and teaching has been critical for developing strategies that promote the museum and its collections as institutionally relevant and sustainable. During the last decade, the museum has endeavored to incorporate sustainability into its operations, policies, and planning in an effort to ensure its diverse collections of earth materials, technologies and tools of research and teaching, and industrial art gain recognition as physical objects that embody data, knowledge, and unique pathways of engagement with science, technology, engineering, art, history, and the environment. Efforts to promote the relevance of the collections are balanced with the reality of limited budgets, limited space, limited staff positions, and increasingly non-traditional use of the collections for research and education. Successful outcomes of our approach are dependent upon not only adopting sustainable practices and policies of collections care but on the museum creating sustainable relationships with individuals and groups in and out of the college. Creating a multifaceted model that promotes mission and sustainability across museum operations and planning has facilitated the development of museum practices and policies that prioritize sustainability.

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