University-Museum Partnerships: Reflections on Programmatic Best Practices for Sustainability Collaborations

By Sandra Rodegher and Stacey Freeman

Abstract: In order to effectively address global sustainability challenges, a wide spectrum of society must be engaged. Universities generate knowledge, enhance understanding of sustainability problems and identify potential pathways to solutions. However, the information they produce often does not reach the public sector. Primary and secondary schools contain expert teachers and science communicators, but they are often limited by educational standards and other teaching duties. On the other hand, museums, such as science and natural history museums, are particularly skilled at translating scientific information so that it engages and excites the general public without the limiting expectations of school systems. Thus, partnerships between museums and universities offer great potential for disseminating sustainability knowledge and solutions on a global scale. However, given the complexity of sustainability problems, partnerships between universities and museums require a deep level of collaboration beyond the scope of information or resource exchange. In this article, we explore our experiences collaborating with museums, reflecting on challenges and, ultimately, identifying four main focal areas to successful, transformational collaborations. Though we focus on museum partnerships from the university perspective, we contend that any institution can apply these four steps to make progress on wicked problems that require immediate action.

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