Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Announcing Successful NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Proposal

I am delighted to share that last week, when the National Endowment for the Humanities announced $43.1 million in funding for 214 humanities projects nationwide, Saint Peter's Lutheran Church in New York City was awarded $350,000 as one of 14 grants under the Endowment's Sustaining Cultural Heritage program.

Nevelson Chapel, From Entry to Cross of the Good Shepherd

To prepare the proposal I worked with the Church staff members Jennifer Eberhart Powell, facilities manager Sam Hutcheson, and Pastor Jared Stahler. I also worked with the project art conservator Sarah Nunberg who is my co-PI on an NEH Research Grant on Life Cycle Assessment in sustainable collections care through the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. We developed an holistic approach to improved climate conditions and room construction to find a safer way to present, preserve, and protect the Nevelson Chapel and its artwork as it is restored. I will join that planning team for implementation for 2018-2019.

When announcing the award, Pastor Amadus J. Derr wrote this to his parishioners and supporters:
Thanks is due in particular to our Project Managers: Debra Inwald with Christine Wahba and Jigme Pokwal of Works-in-Progress Associates. Debra, Christine and Jigme not only kept design of the project moving along, but were instrumental in ensuring and multidisciplinary environmental upgrade team submitted materials required by the grant application on time.

The NEH's award is high praise for the work of Sarah Nunberg, our conservator, and this remarkable team:
  •  Jane Greenwood with Jamie Downie and Marian Prado of Kostow Greenwood Architects;
  • Michael Ambrosino of ADS Engineers;
  •  Michael Henry of Watson & Henry Associates;
  •  Ryoko Nakamura of LOOP Lighting; 
  • Dominick Pilla and Elise Martos of Dominick R. Pilla Structural Engineer Associates; 
  • Stephen Short of Lite-Trol Lighting Control Service;
  •  Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museums

He gave particular thanks to the champion for the project, a man whose passion for the history and setting of this cultural icon made all the difference: Pastor Jared R. Stahler, whose organizing and administrative skills and unwavering passion for this project have played the major role in the success of these grant applications. [The project has also received significant support from the Henry Luce Foundation.]

What a pleasure it is to work with an inspired team of passionate cultural professionals: climate and culture on the same team. 

If you are on Lexington Street in New York City, in the vicinity of the old Citicorp Tower before work begins in mid-October, please stop in to the church, and sit and visit with the sculptural installation that is this remarkable gem of chapel in the hidden in the heart of the City.

Press Release: Nevelson Chapel is the artist’s only remaining complete environment always open to the public. Restoration of this New York City treasure hidden in plain sight will conserve an important piece of cultural heritage for the future and secure Nevelson’s legacy as one of the most influential and celebrated sculptors of the 20th century.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Raise Awareness; Boost Contagion; Count on Disaster.


Have you read In Defense of Food? Do you know American author Michael Pollan and his role in the healthy food movement?  Pollan very simply and effectively describes his approach to the complex problem of changing to healthier, more sustainable food choices in seven words: “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”


To shape my own practice, I developed a similar mantra as an organizing structure for moving us forward. The first two parts are simple statements based on research-based conclusions. The final flourish is just plain reality:  

Raise Awareness; Boost Contagion 
Count On Disaster


Raise Awareness
Humans respond to issues relatable to their current or desired situation. They need an opportunity to see how the issue affects them in a way that matters, and to imagine achievable, acceptable actions to create change.

Boost Contagion
To catch on, new ways often need a boost. Composting, generating energy, choosing alternative packaging and products must become the choice for more of us, but the change can be slow. Trends, legal compliance, incentivized choices, even opt-out instead of opt-in choices, are ways to boost contagion of a new behavior.   

For creating change, when all else fails, we can Count on Disaster
The"Disaster" can be costly mandates, changed regulations, or climate-related events. The force will trigger change where awareness and social signals have not. Only after a serious and damaging storm event, with the ever-present nuisance of rising daily tides, is there change in a coastal community. Urgency and focus appear with a new law, an extended heat wave, or cold snap.

In our climate work, let's use awareness-raising (through knowledge, skill-building, and conservation communication), and positive contagion (shared learning, responsible standards, cooperative solutions) to build a climate movement among cultural institutions and their audiences. The goal is to create our own change, not to let disaster do it for us. 

Let's learn how to best do the work to mitigate and avoid damage to our communities and the world around us.

Friday, July 20, 2018

We Are Still In News & Upcoming Calls July/August

The good news just keeps on coming about We Are Still In and the cultural institutions sector.  In the last two weeks


Everyone who is part of this effort to build cultural institution support for the values of the Paris Agreement is so heartened to see this. 

Individual institutions and associations from national to the state level are considering the value and opportunities afforded by collaboration, and are ready to explore how to be a part of this sea change in community connections by zoos, gardens, historic sites, museums and aquariums.

To help others consider these options, the volunteers at AAM's Environment & Climate Network have set up a series of calls. I look forward to speaking with you - and I hope it's soon.

Here are the dates. Please note that, though these times are all Eastern, they're staggered to provide comfortable times across the regions - including Hawai'i. 


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Wednesday, July 256pm (EST)
Thursday, July 261pm (EST)
Wednesday, August 16pm (EST)
Wednesday, August 812pm (EST)
Wednesday, August 156pm (EST)
Wednesday, August 2212pm (EST)
 Wednesday, August 29   12pm (EST)

Each call uses this link. If you'd like to call in instead, here are the numbers:
iPhone one-tap:
US: +14086380986,,2523448288# or +16465588665,,2523448288#
Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 408 638 0986 or +1 646 558 8665 AND Meeting ID: 252 344 8288

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

More News: We Are Still In, the Cultural Sector

If the last week of June was busy, now, with the holiday over, the We Are Still In action is heating up again.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens signed on - a heritage site dealing with significant impacts of sea level rise on the Florida coast. They're experiences are important for us all to understand. How can we help them; how does their experience prepare others?

Then the Museums Association of Arizona signed on as our first association signatory and first state museum association signatory. Janice Klein attended an online session, then made an excellent case to her board. They are in!

Tomorrow is another chance to  listen and ask questions.  It's noon EST. Just follow that link.

There are similar live webinars every week this summer, and we'll be archiving copies. We're trying to make it easy for you to learn, have your questions answered, and then join your peers. They're interested in working across sectors to help create solutions, and participating in or hosting environment and climate discussions not just with visitors, but also in their communities. It's not about what you're doing now, it's about what you want to start doing.

Meanwhile, the We Are Still In Steering Committee is sending invites to our Forum on September 11th at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, but you have to be part of We Are Still In to participate. The Field Museum and New England Aquarium committed immediately to participating. Museums, gardens, aquariums and historic sites will be able to send a valuable message during the Summit.

It's just incredible to experience. We are showing the world that the significant abilities, resources, and influence of our sector can help address our greatest social, scientific, and economic challenge ever: climate change. Without the volunteers of AAM's Environment & Climate Network, Stephanie, Emily, Carter, Holly, Roger, and Pat, this would not be possible.

So, will you listen in to our calls, or have a private one with me? Will you go to the website yourself? www.wearestillin.com

Then will you sign on and help us tell the world that America is Still In the Paris Agreement because we care about our World?   'Cause we do. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

We Are Still In

Out of the blue, a new Ransom Note From the Future!
It's been an important week.

AAM's Environment & Climate Network announced it's name-change, one that moves from sustainability to addressing climate as well.

The Network hosted two webinars introducing the Cultural Institutions sector of We Are Still In to individual institutions and to membership networks.

There were private calls and emails with interested organizations to help them sign on.

We were asked to send copies of the recordings and slide decks to some who were unable to attend.

So we scheduled extra calls for July (11, 18 & 26).

Then New England Aquarium signed on.

Meanwhile, Museum magazine came out chock full of sustainability articles, and leading with AAM's Laura Mott's endorsement of We Are Still In for cultural institutions: "I encourage you to consider joining them and take the "We Are Still In" pledge this summer," she wrote.

Then a regional museum association said it was interested in signing on, too.

Meanwhile, the We Are Still In Steering Committee met to talk about the run up to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this fall. The list of museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums and historic sites is growing, and growing enough to send a valuable message during the Summit.

It's been a stunning week, long in the making, hard to wait for, and just incredible to experience. We are showing the world that the significant abilities, resources, and influence of our sector can help address our greatest social, scientific, and economic challenge ever: climate change.

So, will you listen in to our calls, or have a private one with me? Will you go to the website yourself? www.wearestillin.com Then will you sign on and help us tell the world that America is Still In the Paris Agreement because we care about our World? 'Cause we do. 

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Museums & UN Sustainable Development Goals: IV #1, #13, #15, #17 on Oahu

This post is a call to action for Honolulu's museums to work together on community resilience to climate impacts, and to provide an example for peers in other cities, especially in the 100 Resilient Cities

When the world around us changes profoundly, culture and community are our best resources as we work to adapt and thrive. The recent flooding in the islands has brought as many stories of generous assistance and sacrifice as they have of tragedy. This is common in a disaster: the most prevalent summary of the disaster experience is how community came together in unanticipated ways.

We need not wait for a crisis to connect more deeply with community; there are ways to prepare our communities so that they experience less damage, and the people feel their common strength and more agency in creating the safe future they deserve. Resilience planning, particularly with the support of cultural institutions, is a valuable way to do that. If we leave it to government alone, then we will not be able to shape the result as much as we desire. Certainly, the work is too wide-ranging, too detailed, too important to leave to one authority. We must share the authority and responsibility.

I urge Hawaii’s charitable institutions, particularly those with an emphasis on arts and humanities, and science and technology, to take the lead in hosting resilience discussions around the state. Our institutions are more trusted than government, other nonprofits, and even credible news outlets (Dillenschneider, 2017). Our sites are familiar and welcoming locations for important, potentially challenging discussions. Our staff and collections have many of the intellectual resources and professional connections to inform these discussions and to educate participants on the science and history that can guide us in finding new solutions. Museums and similar institutions can take the lead in bringing together emergency and public office planners, and residents so we can co-create a stronger, thriving future.

(c) Sarah Sutton 2018
We find culture in our family and neighborly traditions and habits, in our community history and present-day efforts, and in the histories and stories of the land, sea, and people. We find community wherever we look on our islands. I commend the Bishop Museum for its resilience planning session during March, and the Resilient Oahu staff for its willingness to work with cultural institutions to contribute to the island’s resilience plan. Let’s expand that work.

Strawbery Banke Museum is facilitating community discussion on response to nuisance tides and sea level rise in Portsmouth, NH, where its neighbors also own and worry about historic structures. The Annapolis Historical Commission, MD, is leading the country in addressing nuisance tides and sea level rise in historic economic districts.

What conversations does your community need around resilience? How can your institution make these happen? Use the materials provided, for free, on the websites of the National Institution Standards and Technology (complex), and the National Park Service (much more accessible) to plan your resilience study and response. Ask your local cultural institution to host and help design those talks with government and emergency planners, college and university staff, business owners, architects and landscape designers, scientists and heritage practitioners. Work with the City & County of Honolulu Office on Climate Change, Resilience and Sustainability.

This is our home; if we wish it to shelter and nurture us, we must help it to do so.   

Sarah Sutton is principal of Sustainable Museums, a Waialua-based consultancy helping museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, and historic sites become more environmentally sustainable and work with their communities to become more resilient to the changing climate. She spoke at the Hawaii Museums Association’s conference May 4th and will be speaking on July 11th  in ‘Iolani Palace’s Nā Mo'olelo Lecture Series , both in Honolulu.