Making Green History: Oklahoma's Museums Face Special Challenges to Be Eco-Friendly

Article excerpt

When the staffs of museums and cultural facilities consider their part in the "green" movement, their collections preclude them from cutting back on things like light usage and temperature levels.

Doing so is disastrous for a facility charged with safekeeping fine art or historical items because fluctuations in temperature, humidity and light can mean ruined artifacts.

But that doesn't mean that Oklahoma's museums aren't finding ways to be eco-friendly.

"Seldom is (being green) one big thing that happens. It's many other efforts combined," said Dan Provo, director of the Oklahoma Museum of History at the Oklahoma History Center. "I think we should be doing those things as part of being a responsible member of the community."

The Oklahoma Museums Association has begun conversations with ECO - Encouraging Conservation in Oklahoma - about how to make the state's cultural facilities greener. ECO is a partnership between the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. Brenda Granger, executive director of the Oklahoma Museums Association, said the effort will take some time, but it will pay off in many ways, including advertising dollars targeting travelers looking for "green" facilities. Last year in Oklahoma, green sites benefited from $61,000 in advertising, she said.

Oklahoma's museums have already started their ecological efforts. The Philbrook Museum in Tulsa planted a community garden to donate food, and Science Museum Oklahoma overhauled its cafe to offer healthier local food. The new Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur has become a Murray County leader in recycling, and the facility also grows food used in its cafe.

At the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, its recent Art on Tap was nearly a zero-waste event. In addition to recycling traditional items like glass and cardboard, the museum used compostable plates, forks and napkins, and even sent away scraps of food for composting. Whitney Cross, associate development officer for the museum, said she began thinking about the approach after cleaning up too much trash after last year's Art on Tap. This year, she connected with ECO and DEQ for help.

"They didn't push us to do too much; every little bit makes a difference," she said. "But we decided to go for it."

The museum also nixed printing banners to thank sponsors, instead using electronic signs it already has, Cross said. She said they also bought 40 trash cans and created labels for composting and recycling, and they plan to use them for future events. …