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Making collections management more sustainable

Screenshot of website with image of leopard skin book
Screenshot of website with image of leopard skin book

Written by
Elisabeth Thurlow
Published date
17 December 2021

Like many organisations the University of the Arts London is working to be more environmentally sustainable. In response we’ve been considering how we can make our collections management practices more sustainable – including how we care for our physical collections as well as our growing digital collections management practices.

At an online event organised by the Digital Preservation Coalition, we recently shared our growing work around how we can approach digitisation in a more environmentally sustainable way. With our fellow collections colleagues we have been discussing how we can more mindfully approach digitisation, by considering why we might digitise something and the value in this. Whilst assessing the environmental impact of not only the digitisation process itself, but also the subsequent long-term preservation of any digital content created. The Digital Preservation Coalition has now brought together a growing number of resources relating to sustainable digital preservation, responding to what is a growing conversation in the international digital preservation field.

As well as digital practices, with colleagues from across the various UAL collections we have been considering the environmental impact of collections management in relation to our physical collections. Topics being explored include sustainable exhibition practices, sustainable packing and conservation materials, as well as collecting the Climate Emergency through objects and archives.

Screenshot of website with images of archive items

The first curated collection on the new UAL Digital Collections site, prepared by some of our curators, focuses on the trend of sustainability as traced across some of our different collections. This includes artworks from graduating artists which explore the climate crisis, as well as examples of ‘methods of making’ which are both local and renewable.

How we make collections management more sustainable is a growing discussion across UAL, and the wider archives, libraries and museum sectors, and we look forward to sharing more in the future to show how we are adapting our practices in response to the challenges faced.

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