Interview with Craig Johnson Part II: Sustainability at James J. Hill House and in Craig's Life

This interview was conducted by Yixuan Cai, our Summer 2015 Sustainability intern. Yixuan co-wrote this post with Shengyin Xu. It was edited by Samuel Courtier.

Drawing room of the James. J Hill House

Craig Johnson: "Yes, it's true that it is a place of conspicuous consumption---they had way too much and no one needs all that---, yet many of the choices they made were much more sustainable than the ones we make today.”

Craig Johnson discusses Sustainability at James J. Hill House and in his personal life.

At first glance, it may appear that James J. Hill House has little to teach us about Sustainability. Indeed, as the Gilded Age mansion of the 'Empire Builder,' Hill House seems to embody extravagance and---borrowing terminology from Craig---'conspicuous consumption.' However, during our interview, Craig shed light on the variety of opportunities he's found for incorporating Sustainability into the Hill House's story and day-to-day operations.


Interview with Craig Johnson Part I: MNHS Green Team Flashback

This interview was conducted by Yixuan Cai, our Summer 2015 Sustainability intern. Yixuan co-wrote this post with Shengyin Xu. It was edited by Samuel Courtier.

Craig Johnson at James J. Hill House

Craig Johnson: “Through the lens of Sustainability, we can take a close look at how people did things in the past and contrast them with how they do things today. All of the MNHS programs might have greater relevance when evaluated in light of the big Sustainability issues of our day—climate change being foremost.”

Craig Johnson gives us a history of the Green Team at MNHS and tells the story of Sustainability’s evolution from brown bag topic to strategic priority.

Sustainability is a strategic priority at MNHS thanks to the collaboration of a few passionate individuals who assembled to form the MNHS Green Team in 2008. Craig Johnson, a founding member, played an instrumental role in the transformation of the Green Team's early successes, like the "Green Team Tips" e-mail campaign, into institution-wide commitment to sustainable practice.

Craig began his career at MNHS in 1977 as an interpreter at Fort Snelling. From 1984 on, he held various positions at James J. Hill House, becoming site manager in 1994. In 2015, Craig decided to leave MNHS to focus on another of his passions, theater. Before moving on, Craig was kind enough to sit down with Yixuan Cai, our Summer 2015 Sustainability Intern, for an interview at James J. Hill House. Craig gave us a retrospective on the origins of the Green Team and the evolution of the Sustainability initiative at MNHS.


New Sustainability Intern

I am Babita Shrestha and I am the sustainability intern here at Minnesota Historical Society. I worked with the Sustainability & Capital Projects team this fall on the “More for the Mission” blog and the recent staff sustainability event.  I have enjoyed working on the event in collaboration with some of you at MNHS and I am looking forward to applying how to use design to connect people to the topic of sustainability. I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself and my career journey to MNHS. 


NEH Funds Energy Efficient Cold Storage Project at the History Center

MNHS is proud to have received our second NEH grant for energy efficient cold storage (press release)!  This NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Implementation Grant will allow us to implement the recommendations from our interdisciplinary study on energy efficient cold storage.  In 2012, NEH awarded a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Planning grant to the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) to conduct an interdisciplinary study that balanced issues of long-term preservation for film materials.  These issues included preservation metrics, potential energy use, cost for maintenance, as well as investment cost for any recommended system or building upgrades.  At the conclusion of the study in 2014, the interdisciplinary team reduced the broader set of options into a cohesive set of recommendations that include building improvements and specific upgrades of equipment.  When implemented, these recommendations would produce a colder and drier environment that helps preserve film materials longer while concurrently reducing the energy required to sustain that environment.  


New Kelley Farm Visitor Center will be a LEED Gold and B3 Sustainable Building

The Minnesota Historical Society will utilize USGBC’s LEED Green Building Design and Construction Certification system as a way to support the mission of the Oliver Kelley Farm:

“...interpret the history of family farms, Kelley Family, and MN’s agriculture past, present and future to nurture an understanding of where our food comes from and agriculture’s image on our world...”

LEED supports this by guiding an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable infrastructure to deliver this outcome.  It is also responsible for significant market transformation in sustainable building, and is often recognized by general audiences as well as those in the construction industry.  In particular, the team is targeting Gold certification (of Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels).  


Meet Dan Hansen: From Entomologist to Environmentalist

Last week, I was lucky enough to interview Dan Hansen about waste reduction and sustainable operations. Dan is the facilities maintenance technician at the Mill City Museum, however, his passion and experiences in natural history and sustainability go far beyond this job title. You can tell from a glimpse of his exquisite worldwide insects collection and his wide range of reusable materials storage at his workshop.


Our New Sustainability Intern

Hi everyone, I’m Yixuan (pronounced as “E-Shwan”) Cai. I’m the new sustainability intern here at Minnesota Historical Society. In the following weeks, I’ll work with Shengyin to develop our More for the Mission campaigns. I’m looking forward to learning how museums address sustainability issues and making voices for sustainability heard. Since I’ll post a few entries here in the following weeks, maybe you want to know a little bit about me!


Energy-Efficient Cold Storage Recent Publications

Our NEH-funded Energy-Efficient Cold Storage study has been picking up a lot of attention at recent professional conferences!  We presented to mixed crowds at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).  In the fall, we plan to publish an article in the International Association for Museum Facility Administrators (IAMFA) journal - Papyrus.  In the meantime, catch up on the materials we have already shared: 


Sustainability General Session at American Institute for Conservation in Miami

Our energy-efficient cold-storage project was presented to a small group of about 40-50 attendees of the American Institute for Conservation Annual Meeting.  This year's meeting theme was "Practical Philosophy or Making Conservation Work." Sustainability was one of three general session tracks along with practical philosophy and Year of Light.  


American Alliance of Museums 2015 Annual Meeting Green Recap

Did you go to AAM Atlanta 2015 this year?  This year’s AAM Annual Meeting theme, “The Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change,” had an inspirational message about the role of museums in inclusivity and social engagement.  Sustainability has a role in this as well since it is often defined as a holistic approach to social, environmental, and economic issues.   This was well demonstrated with several sessions and events at this year’s AAM event.  Here is a quick recap and report out of the green events and sessions!