Caroline Keppel-Palmer

Finalist category: Digital Volunteer of the Year Award

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Digital Volunteer of the Year, Finalist, 2019

Founder of Museum Freecycle, Caroline is committed to using technology to help the museums reduce their environmental impact.  Museum Freecycle is an online network that enables unwanted equipment to be recycled sustainably and easily between museums. It is the first industry-wide Freecycle group in the world and is run voluntarily with no budget. Caroline is based in London and works full time running her e-commerce business, Museum Bookstore, an online store specialising in art books and exhibition catalogues.

Due to a lack of time and storage space, museums were sending good quality and reusable exhibition equipment to landfill. Caroline set up Museum Freecycle in 2014 to reduce museums’ environmental impact and help them stretch their budgets further.  She worked with Deron Beale, Executive Director of The Freecycle Network, to repurpose Freecycle to make the platform relevant for industry and was responsible for all outreach, using content, email and social marketing to raise awareness of the scheme within the museum sector.  As part of that, she submitted guest blogs to different museum organisations; sent an email with information on the initiative to all UK museums listed on wikipedia; set up twitter and Pinterest accounts and has spoken at numerous industry events. Caroline is the lead moderator of the group and is solely responsible for approving all applications, answering questions and ensuring the smooth running of the group.

Caroline has shown great passion, drive and commitment and dedicated many hours of her spare time to ensuring Museum Freecycle’s success. She has used her online research and e-commerce marketing skills to help raise awareness of the group and encourage museums to join.

Since its inception, Museum Freecycle has attracted some 850 members and been used actively. Run on a budget of zero, the initiative has given a second lease of life to millions of pounds worth of museum equipment including display cases, mannequins, lighting, as well as office and retail equipment. The group has provided a source of free exhibition furniture and museum equipment to smaller museums, helping them to continue to develop and upgrade their visitor experiences in spite of financial constraints and ever-tighter budgets.  One Museum Freecycle member that has benefited is Bloxham Village Museum in Oxfordshire. The museum gained a new purpose built donations box which replaced their homemade donations jar and have since seen their visitor donations soar.

Museum Freecycle was included last year in a Museum of London exhibition as one of the most innovative social enterprises operating within London. The success of the group has inspired other industries within the cultural sector to set up their own Freecycle group and boost reuse within their own sectors.

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