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Event Report: Museum Facilities Managers Forum #8
Our eighth Museum Facilities Managers Forum was kindly hosted by Weald & Downland Living Museum in West Sussex on a clear October morning. The SBP’s Shelaine Siepel welcomed delegates and reminded them of our new Utilise Plus programme, offering substantial grants and invaluable business support to eligible organisations, including museums. Delegates then introduced themselves and raised a facilities-related issue or project which they’re currently working on. These included renovating old buildings and integrating them with more modern ones, setting up effective security controls, and installing new energy-saving measures.
After the introductions, it was time for a tour! Julian Bell, one of Weald & Downland’s curators, showed us around the Gridshell Building. The building was constructed in 2002, costing just under £2,000,000 in total, of which £1,200,000 was attained through grant funding. The building is made from locally-sourced wood and was intended to act as a workspace for repairing timber buildings from around the site. Now, the building is also used for a variety of events, from corporate meetings to exhibitions. Gridshell is still a work in progress, as Julian explained that they’re working on finding a sustainable solution to their ineffective heating system. We were also treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the lower floor, underneath the Gridshell Building, where they keep some of their artefacts. This room is built into a slope, providing an effective and natural layer of insulation. What’s more, underfloor heating is achieved by extracting the warm, dry air from their plant room and inserting it under the floor.
Anna Nelson, Weald & Downland’s General Manager, concluded the tour with a look at their biomass boiler. She also explained how sustainability is central to everything they do at the museum, from their low-impact farming – including horse-powered ploughing – to their use of the on-site lake for hydro and steam power. Weald & Downland’s impressive 5-step sustainability commitment is made up of (1) an environmental statement of intent, (2) sustainable processes, (3) implementation, (4) measuring and improving, and (5) business as usual.
After the tour, the discussion focussed on how Weald & Downland engage their volunteers. Anna explained that they strive to push volunteers out of their comfort zone, which is well-received by most, as they want to learn new skills. With a forge and dairy on-site, there’s no shortage of interesting and unusual areas for volunteers to get stuck into!
These events have provided crucial support to museums and the Sustainable Business Partnership looks forward to organising similar events in the future, as well as working with these organisations through our Utilise Plus programme. If you’d like help running a similar event in the future, please contact us.