SDG Talks between Europe and North America

Mid-June, the Association of Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) held its annual conference. This took place online, and celebrated 50 years of ALHFAM, but also discussing the future of living history.

With most of ALHFAM’s members based in North America, and a large part of EXARC’s members in Europe, we thought this online meeting would be a great opportunity to connect. EXARC therefore organized a 45-minute session within the overarching theme “Strategies for Sustaining Living History plus ALHFAM best practices”. The EXARC session was about Global Sustainability: Open-Air Museums and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our host was Douglas Worts, Culture & Sustainability Specialist, Worldviews Consulting (Canada), and the session was prepared by Sofia Daenen and Roeland Paardekooper, both from EXARC.

We first asked the participants how they already included the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in their work. Answers ranged from changing the products the museums use (more local and sustainable, less environmental damage) to getting in cooperation with other stakeholders in the SDG quest. Sofia Daenen then explained much about the SDGs, approaching them from different angles to show how an open-air museum can tackle these best. When one starts, the SDGs may look like an intimidating UN Top Down approach, but to be honest, it is just as much a grassroot approach as most open-air museums already work with, and many simple options can help pave the way to the larger goals. We talked about some simple examples from the UK, Germany and Japan. The presentation on the SDGs also included Jasper Visser’s approach (see as well as the ten simple actions EXARC developed in cooperation with #museumsforFuture. Daenen clarified to which larger goals these actions refer to.

We were happy to have a good discussion with the participants of the session following on that, looking at how the SDGs translate into a North American situation. All in all we had a good debate and look further to cooperation with our ALHFAM friends. The SDGs may be a toolkit which brings us closer together.

More information on the session: