Menu Menu

Museums across the UK team up to tackle the climate crisis

Last week, leaders of British museums which showcase the history of our planet pledged to do their part to preserve its future at the first-ever joint commitment for collective action against the climate crisis.

It seems that climate protests happening inside the world’s most famous art museums are finally paying off.

National and regional museums in the UK are uniting to address the climate crisis through collective action, with a focus on sustainable collection management and finding ways to engage audiences on environmental issues.

This historic commitment was made during the inaugural UK Museum Cop held at Tate Modern in London last week, which brought together representatives from various museums, organizations in the sector, and funders.

Participants included museums and organisations from all over the country including Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Leeds, Derby, Liverpool, York, Sheffield, and London. Also in attendance were national bodies from England, Wales, and Scotland.

Their effort follows a growing trend where leading museums and galleries, such as Tate, have severed sponsorship ties with fossil fuel companies in response to environmental campaigners’ pressure.

Earlier this year, the British Museum, – although not in attendance at the Museum Cop – announced that it had terminated its 27-year sponsorship deal with BP. Trustees of the museum heralded this move, saying it is important for institutions to deny ‘Big Oil the opportunity to look like a force for good in society.’

File:Carsten holler tate.jpg - Wikipedia

A statement released after last week’s meeting described it as a ‘first-ever joint commitment for collective action’ in which museum leaders recognised their role in addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Many museums around the world hold collections that educate us on the Earth’s previous mass extinction events. These institutions now find themselves in the midst of what is believed to be the sixth such event, known as the Anthropocene.

As a result, UK museum leaders expressed an ethical obligation to take action to mitigate the damage caused. They outlined their commitments to using in-house collections, programs, and exhibitions to engage audiences on the climate crisis and inspire positive action.

Museum leaders also pledged to manage their collections in a sustainable way, to develop and implement decarbonisation plans, and to enhance biodiversity in museum green spaces.

Natural History Museum to create immersive green space and learning centre | News & Ideas | School Travel Organiser

Maria Balshaw, the chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council and the director of Tate, emphasised the unique perspective of museums as institutions tasked with preserving collections and stories for the long term.

She stated that museums and galleries, with their long-term view, have an essential role to play in reducing their own environmental impact and inspiring the public to take positive action.

The conference also called on UK politicians and businesses to advance efforts to combat climate change. More specifically, to urgently implement changes to planning laws and increase investment in improving the sustainability of heritage buildings.

It was also suggested that all museums adopt a ‘greener option first’ principle in all areas of practice, and include environmental sustainability in training and apprenticeships within the sector.

Climate change is one of the most pressing global concerns of our time. It’s encouraging that museum leaders in the UK are at last leveraging their unique and wide-reaching position to incite positive change.