Supporting UK museums through Museum Freecycle

As you know, we love and adore museums (almost to a fault) and do what we can to support this wonderful community. As well as shining a light on museum publications and promoting museum exhibitions, we also provide in-kind support for  Museum Freecycle . 

Museum Freecycle, which was set up in 2014 by Caroline Keppel-Palmer, is an online group for UK museums to exchange unwanted items between themselves. The group acts as a kind of digital noticeboard for the whole sector, linking museums and enabling them to exchange unwanted exhibition equipment and furniture. The group is free to join, free to use and for the free exchange of items. Members can either advertise items that they no longer require or search for new items that they might not be able to afford. This simple digital noticeboard has helped museums exchange equipment including display cases, mannequins, plinths, storage boxes, office furniture and lighting. 

Museum Freecycle is the first ever industry-wide freecycle group and is helping the museum sector become more sustainable by preventing good quality, reusable museum items from reaching landfill. In addition, it is providing museums with a source of free exhibition furniture and museum equipment enabling them to develop and upgrade their visitor experience for the cost of collecting the items.

Display cases recycled through Museum Freecycle

Nadine Loach from the Dulwich Picture Gallery, explains how she used the group:

‘We had two large display cases that were custom built for a recent exhibition. We did not have any use for them for the following exhibition and were unable to store them, so advertised them on Museum Freecycle The RAF Museum agreed to take them as part of their refurbishment. We arranged for them to collect the cases on the last day of the deinstallation of the exhibition, so as not to interfere with any of the loans on display and to ensure that the space was cleared for the installation of the following exhibition. We are pleased that everything worked out and that the RAF museum now has some top spec display cases.’  

Recently, the volunteer-run Bloxham Village Museum replaced their homemade donations jam jar with a beautiful purpose-built and free donation box from the Natural History Museum.

Peter J P Barwell MBE, the Registrar for the Museum:

'When I first read about Museum Freecycle, I was so excited because having been the registrar of Bloxham Village Museum for 15 years I have never had any funds to use for buying anything. Like all little museums, we have to go on the cadge for funds to acquire anything.

Being a member of the Oxford Museums Council for 15 years, I was thrilled when I was able to replace all our showcases with ones from the Ashmolean Museum. That, of course, was a one-off. Museum Freecycle, on the other hand, is an on-going system whereby Museums can have the type of opportunity that I once had with the Ashmolean.

Does it work? Well look at my jar that we collect donations in – there is nothing in it!

Bloxham Village Museum's original donations box

Well, people can’t see it, so they never put anything in!   Well, my usual motto is think big. Recently the Museum of Natural History in South Kensington had a new money collecting system and their donations box was on offer.   Yes, you guessed it, I asked if I could have it. The answer came back yes of course if you collect it.

Well with a little trepidation as our Museum is small and I thought my Curator would say it was far too big and taking up too much room.

I was ready with an answer for that – our visitors would spot this very professional looking donations box nicely pre-decorated with “Thank you” in every possible language. Think big, collect big! 

Bloxham Village Museum's donation box

How much better this system is than the old mentality, we don’t need `so and so’ now, lets bin it! Remember the name and join like I did, it costs nothing MUSEUM FREECYCLE'

Each year, Museum Freecycle finds new homes for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of display cases, plinths, mannequins, storage boxes, retail units, donation boxes, lighting and other weird and wonderful museum bits and bobs – all with minimal bureaucracy and at zero cost to the sector and taxpayer.   The initiative was included last year in a Museum of London exhibition as one of the most innovative social enterprises in London.

We are very proud to support Museum Freecycle and to do our bit to help museums flourish.