Planning a Life Cycle Analysis Library and Beta Tool for Sustainable Cultural Heritage Preservation and Exhibition Practices

  • Sarah NunbergEmail author
  • Sarah SuttonEmail author
  • Matthew EckelmanEmail author
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Custodians of cultural heritage have begun to employ Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate the environmental impact of materials and actions that curators, conservators, registrars and art handlers employ. LCA is a popular systems modeling tool useful for quantifying the total resource inputs and environmental burdens of a particular product or process. This paper discusses a US-based, federally-funded project established to create a free online LCA library of materials and methods relevant to preservation of cultural heritage. The project will also produce an LCA beta tool that provides collections care professionals with guidance to achieve sustainable goals through informed choices. The paper reports on two of the three LCAs, both addressing different aspects of maintaining cultural heritage: (1) cleaning methods and their environmental and human health impacts, and (2) cradle-to-gate impact of manufacturing, using and displaying three seventeenth and eighteenth century silver objects. The lists and categories gathered to populate the beta LCA tool are also discussed. The specific scoping and classification challenges that were encountered during the initial project phase are presented, and the methods for fulfilling the grant, the specific LCAs and materials lists are described. The issues learned and information acquired during the project will be useful in defining the terms for the next project phase where the full tool and library are realized. The final project will be freely available to users worldwide, and will support further research in preventive conservation, treatment, and exhibition through conducting material analysis, organizing knowledge and sharing it openly.


Life cycle assessment National Endowment for the Humanities Environmental management Preventive conservation Cultural heritage 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Objects Conservation Studio, LLCBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Department of Math and SciencePratt InstituteBrooklynUSA
  3. 3.Sustainable MuseumsWaialuaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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