Sustainably Harvested & Local Materials

Wood

The National Woodland Owners Association provides a state-by-state and regional directory of woodland owners made up of family owners and community members who are land stewards.  Your local chapter may be interested in helping you find and source sustainably harvested local woods, supplied by members of your community. 

In Madison, our entire flooring in our Wildernest exhibit and Art Studio was selectively harvested, cut and donated to the museum by eight family members of our local woodland owners group. Each woodland owner family selectively harvested trees to be felled, and MCM paid for the transportation, milling and kiln drying. The woodland owners decided  to harvest ash to proactively address the imminent emerald ash borer invasion that is sweeping Wisconsin and destroying entire forests.  This donation was significant because it gave us a resource we needed for little cost, but it also tells an important story to our visitors about local forest management. 

Stone

Local quarries and stoneyards are great places to find stone that is native to your area. There is no need to import granite or marble from other places.  Using local stone helps define your museum as being of the place. Look in your local phone book or web browser to find local stone companies and quarries.  Most of these will have a variety of locally sourced stone and others that come from farther afield.  If you go this route, you’ll need to specifcally ask to be directed to local sources. The good thing is that these are often the least expensive stones. The National Building Granite Quarries Association has a directory of larger granite companies that specialize in building and masonry granite.

At MCM, our WIldernest exhibit grotto was made primarily with local fieldstone, with interesting staff-donated objects embedded into the stonework.The I Spy-like game that resulted is both fun and personal, and allowed staff members to make their personal mark on the institution, however small.

Wildernest exhibit stone grotto
Natural Building Techniques

Nearly every part of the world has techniques and cultural traditions for natural building; adobe, cord wood, clay, strawbale, wattle and daub, timber framing and more. The great thing about some of these age-old techniques is that they rely almost exclusively on local, natural materials.

The Natural Builder’s Network is an international  consortium of people who specialize in a variety of natural building techniques. Their website will connect you with people who can find inventive ways to use existing local materials that can be incorporated into beautfiul exhibits and environments. The beauty of natural building techniques is encourage ecological restoration, while helping to create spaces that are beautfiul, uplifting and warm.

MCM’s WIldernest exhibit includes two straw clay structures; one housing musical instruments from around the world, and the other set up as a transcultural playhouse, with a hearht, kitchen tools and utensils, baby care area and outdoor garden. Both will be able to be fully composted when the exhibit is removed in 20-plus years.

Paints and Finishes

While it may be tempting to purchase paint from a national chain, you might be able to get deep discounts by working with a local paint manufacturer. You’ll have to weigh the costs, paint quality, and environmental and health factors when making these decisions.

American Coating Association’s Paint Council Network has a national directory of paint manufacturers by state and region.Though there is not yet a network in each state, this might be a resource to find a local paint manufacturer in your area.

Other Materials

For a comprehensive list of other materials, go to GreenExhibits.org. Though these are organized by area, rather than location, you might get ideas of things you could look for locally.

Squashed house - photograph by Zane Williams, copyright 2010 Photograph by Zane Williams © 2010