Exploring sustainable resource use for “empty museums” through sharing platform design: A case study of Helsinki Design Museum

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability
58 + 16
The sustainability of museums is a complex topic that has long been a dilemma. As public cultural institutions, museums must preserve and communicate culture in perpetuity, showing their significant mission of social sustainability; while the buildings and exhibitions required for this social mission are energy-intensive and financially challenging. Being constantly faced with the sustainability challenges of its resource use, in recent years, museums have needed to deal with various unexpected crises, among which the emerging phenomenon of “empty museums” appeared and caused a great impact on the museum field. Through a case study of Helsinki Design Museum in Finland, this thesis aims to understand how the emptiness issue can be mitigated and how long-term sustainable resource use can be facilitated for museums. The research is conducted under a working hypothesis of sharing platform design, seeking if sharing can become one effective approach for the case museum to promote its environmental, social, and financial sustainability. The case study is organized through desk research, field observations, and interviews, which provide full evidence for case analysis and design exploration. The study suggests that Helsinki Design Museum is under an unbalanced resource distribution status, resulting in negative financial growth and considerable consumption and waste of exhibition materials. However, the awareness of more sustainable manners is lacking due to the “invisible” impacts. There also lies a gap between the museum's ideas and practices for sustainable development. On the other hand, sharing has been naturally and widely taken into the practice of the case museum, but the current sharing network has loose connections within and may be challenged by the different internal goals and interests. This thesis ends with a design exploration based on a new theory of building sharing platform for the case museum, together with discussions towards the future museum transition.
Solsona Caba, Nuria
Thesis advisor
Hodson, Elise
empty museums, sustainable resource use, sharing platform design, case study, Helsinki Design Museum, sustainable museums
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