Recycling and Reusing Archival Materials and Museum Furniture


Katie Fleming, Gallery Manager and Education Coordinator, Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology
Lisa Schmidt, CultureNut Ambassador, CultureNut Xchange
Barbara Hanson Forsyth, Senior Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, Mingei International Museum


Rachael Faust, Manager of the Artist Initiative, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


  • Collections

Have you completed a collections move and found yourself left with a plethora of foam, polyester fiberfill, and boxes that you would happily share with another institution? Or maybe you’re moving out of storage space or just closed an exhibition and have furniture you can no longer use? Repurposing archival materials and museum furniture takes time and effort, which is often not built into our job descriptions.
As stewards of cultural heritage, we must be conscious of protecting our environment by not creating unnecessary waste. This presentation will focus on creative and efficient ways to share unwanted goods through community resources, furniture vendors, social media, and online classifieds.

WMA 2019 Recycle Reuse Resources

Recycling and Reusing is EVERYONE’S JOB!!
Start a Sustainability Committee
What are other departments in your museum already doing?
Scenario 1: How to protect your collection during a construction project?
  • Reuse museum marketing banners as barriers
  • Reuse Tyvek dust covers
  • Sheet of coroplast – can reuse materials later
  • See what you already have, or buy materials that you can reuse for other purposes
Scenario 2: Extra materials after a Collections Move
  • Offer materials to:
    • Mail and Office Supplies Stores
    • Schools, art departments, wood shop
Scenario 3: Large Plastic panels with text stickers leftover after an exhibition
  • Too hard to remove stickers. Cover the whole sheet with another material
Scenario 4: Leftover Exhibition Furniture
  • Recycling, reusing built into exhibition schedule
  • Have the expectation/standard that one-time use is NOT acceptable
  • Make furniture in the future that is not as disposable or as customized
Scenario 5: Crate reuse
  • Donate to smaller institutions
  • Donate to local woodshop/ trade school
  • Put it in your alley?
  • Put your problematic materials in the front of your storage/office so that everyone in the museum sees them and can offer solutions
  • Make sure museum staff understand the workload of disposal
  • Smaller institutions tend to be better at repurposing. Can you give materials to a smaller institution in your area?
  • Someone’s trash = another’s treasure
  • Nitrile Glove Recycling: TerraCylce or Kimberley Clark
  • Go straight to the source: companies that produce the product can also sometimes recycle the product
  • Check you local garbage/recycle service. The people that pick up office trash may also be able to help you with other materials
Culture Nut Exchange:


Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Just want to see if you are a robot.