Skip to content

Four Museums Recognized with 2020 Sustainability Excellence Awards

Category: Press Release

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2020 – Four museums have been recognized with 2020 Sustainability Excellence Awards, presented by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community.

First presented in 2014, the awards recognize sustainability efforts in facilities, programming, and exhibits in both large and small institutions. In the last five years, the award program has recognized 20 different museums for their efforts. This year’s recipients are:

  • The Spurlock Museum of World Cultures in Urbana, IL (Existing Facility category) for its ambitious yet realistic approach, directing their resources toward meeting the goal of creating a carbon-neutral campus by 2050. By implementing a methodical retro-commissioning program to evaluate systems performance, followed by LED lighting upgrades, the institution effectively demonstrates that rigorous analyses, coupled with innovative funding and resource allocation, ultimately pay off in significant reductions in energy use and carbon emissions.
  • The National Nordic Museum in Seattle, WA (New Construction category) for a project that successfully integrates museum planning and design with an extensive program of sustainability measures, to create architecture that both evokes its cultural history and responds to its current site. The Museum also exceeded its own goal of LEED Silver to achieve LEED Gold certification.
  • The Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT (Special Award of Merit) for its accomplishments in eliminating single-use plastic on its entire 19-acre site. The jury was impressed by the institution’s comprehensive approach: the attention paid to inculcating behavior change; addressing cost challenges; data collection and analysis; and the detailed documentation of its process.
  • The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA (Programming Award) for its incredibly successful program, “Make the Switch at Phipps: Green Power Drive.” Following extensive surveys to gauge their visitors’ views on climate change, Phipps partnered with Green Mountain Energy to conduct on-site education that allowed visitors to switch their home electricity to green power on the spot in exchange for a free membership to Phipps. To date, over 5,000 homes have switched to green power, proving this model could be successfully implemented and scaled across a wide variety of cultural institutions.

Jury Chair for the Facility Award, Joyce S. Lee, states, “The Mystic Seaport is a powerful example that illustrates a deep dive in one sustainability topic that was consistently tackled with rigor. We see in the Spurlock Museum a highly collaborative effort; excellent documentation that sheds light on sustainability as a long-lasting legacy. At the Nordic Museum, the facility goals were well articulated through the client and the design team. And the beautiful execution reflects its overall thoughtfulness about a lighter footprint.”

SEA Committee Chair, Michael Fiegenschuh, states, “The Phipps demonstrates the power of community partnership that led to a greener future well beyond their own campus.”

The SEA awards, strongly encouraging museum energy benchmarking to address climate action, are sponsored by the Environment and Climate Network, a professional network of AAM members committed to establishing museums as leaders in environmental sustainability.  Please look for the 2021 Call for Entries at the AAM Environment and Climate Network website on October 30, 2020.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Natanya Khashan
Director, Marketing & Communications
American Alliance of Museums

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.