Sarah Sutton

Introducing our first international Tuakana - Sarah Sutton. Sarah was a big influence on Nina while she was writing her Masters dissertation on environmental sustainability in New Zealand museums. As well as an author, Sarah is an independent consultant based in the United States helping museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums and historic sites improve their environmental sustainability, and help them create grants development plans and prepare major grant proposals. A tireless advocate for greening museums at every step from policy, to exhibition design, to collection practices, Sarah's unflinching belief that museums can be advocates of positive change in our communities is inspiring. Welcome and kia ora Sarah! 

What is it about the sector that you love? 

People (Colleagues and visitors to learn from)

What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector? 

Curiosity (Energy to think differently)

What have been some challenges in your career?  

 I am bothered most by resistance to new ideas. For the first 15 years of my career I heard “we’ve always done it that way.” Now the resistant is more specific, perhaps that is evolution, but I am not sure. Twenty five years ago, when I left permanent employment to become an independent consultant I heard “you won’t like being an independent; you’ll find so many ways you can’t participate in the field”. And indeed, it was as if I had gone to the dark side, but slowly that changed. People were willing to take me on my personal merits, not my employment status. Within a few years my regional museum association formed a special interest group for independents. The field in the US had begun to recognize that the Internet, new life/work choices, and economic changes leading to layoffs, all contributed to a shift in the profession’s make-up. And it began to see its professionals as people, not as either nonprofits or forprofits. Slowly the field broadened its definition of a museum professional.

What challenges can you see moving forward? 

I feel the biggest challenge to moving forward is more of the same - resistance to change and to new ideas: particularly climate change. Of course I am guilt, too. I have my own difficulties with some new ideas and with change, and other professionals have parallel struggles, so this is not an indictment. I want instead to name issues of resistance as a way to begin to assess and address them. The planet’s changing climate is affecting economies, physical and cultural resources, and our food systems. When it begins to affect people’s daily decisions do we think museums, zoos, gardens and aquariums will remain high on their activity lists for time choices? Long before that museums will find funding diverted to food and physical security adaptations. Museums must make themselves part of the solution or be left behind (or under water).

What is your spirit animal?

Penguin. They travel well between worlds, socially comfortable, and are orderly and well-behaved, and able to balance black and white/good and bad. I think that pretty much describes my way of being and working.