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Climate Action Examples from Museums

Introduction

Climate action takes many different forms and you don't have to be an expert to get involved. We've collated a range of examples from museums across Scotland to inspire and inform. 

Environmental programme examples

Glasgow Women's Library Environmental Focus

Organisation: Glasgow Women's Library

Project Info:

Bush Tea: a Decolonial Conversation, was a conversation we hosted with four speakers over bush tea, a plant originally grown by enslaved communities in Barbados. The conversation, filmed in September 2021 at the Hunterian Museum on the cusp of Black History Month and COP26, addressed themes including shared transatlantic history, reparative justice, ecological crises, land use and connections between the Scottish clearances, Caribbean plantation plots and post-extractive ethics and the British tradition of drinking tea.

We have undertaken various other projects including more climate activism talks, growing a garden outside the Glasgow Women's Library, creating a 10 year net zero action plan, fitting secondary glazing and LED lights for energy efficiency of the building, and capturing carbon emissions. We have museum and archive collections that hold a range of ecofeminist materials.

Read a blog about environmental work that has been led by GWL’s Green Creative Cluster, a group of volunteers and staff from across the organisation.

Read about improving energy efficiency at Glasgow Women's Library.

 

National Galleries Scotland Environmental Focus

Organisation: National Galleries Scotland

Project:

Since COP26 NGS has launched our new Environmental Response Plan 2022-25. It covers the three main areas that we think the National Galleries of Scotland can have an impact with the Climate Emergency.

  • Engaging & Inspiring – Using the Scottish art collections to connect with audiences and partners on themes important to the climate and ecological emergency.
  • Achieving Net-Zero – reducing our environmental impact by adopting low carbon alternatives wherever possible across our own estate.
  • Protecting our world class collection – preparing for the effect of climate change in order to protect Scotland’s art collection for future generations.

Internally we have been getting our Steering Group and Engagement Group set up, with representatives from across the organisations getting involved. 

Lots of projects are already underway in these three areas:

Engage & inspire 

  • Conversations with the Collection | National Galleries of Scotland – two of the rooms within this display touch on environmental landscapes and the use of materials.
  • Natural Environment Research Council/University of Glasgow discipline-hopping group: NGS curators supported a research group with examples from the NGS collection to understand the scientific and cultural value of wetlands for climate mitigation.
  • Freelancer Kate Temple led a natural ink making workshop in Art Space 1 for members of the Granton Walled Garden community, which was inspired by autumnal artworks in the collection.

Achieving Net Zero 

Protecting our world class collection 

  • The National Galleries of Scotland Art Works project is creating a sustainable new facility to future-proof Scotland’s renowned art collection. The design will follow Passivhaus principles to reduce energy consumption.
  • We are participating and engaging with Edinburgh World Heritage on their Climate Change Risk Assessment research, discussing the impacts of climate change on our Edinburgh sites. 

Environmental upgrade examples

New Lighting for Tower Foyer Gallery and D'Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum 

Organisation: University of Dundee

Project: 

The Tower Foyer Gallery’s lights were installed in 2001 and many are now broken and unable to be replaced. The Zoology Museum’s lights were installed in 2007 and the room has had electrical problems from the start, meaning that many of the lights cannot be switched off. The bulbs have a very short life and have to be frequently replaced. Both venues are still reliant on halogen bulbs that are inefficient and environmentally damaging. By replacing these with LEDs it will help improve our environmental sustainability, which is an important goal for us.

Environmental sustainability is an important part of the University’s overall strategy and is one of the key targets that the Scottish Funding Council want university museums to address over the next few years. This is particularly important in the Zoology Museum where safeguarding the natural world and our impact on the environment are key display themes. The project will help us to reduce our carbon footprint and save costs while also improving the appearance of both spaces. 

Also, we have a cycle trail as part of the Public Art Dundee project to encourage people to visit public art around the city by bike rather than car.

Find more information about energy efficient lighting in museums

 

Post pandemic environmental upgrades

Organisation: Glenfinnan Station Museum

Project:

The Glenfinnan Station Museum Trust has decided to discontinue reliance on gas for cooking purposes in order to reduce the operation's carbon footprint, and to be prepared for the anticipated phasing out of fossil fuels. For the premises to be able to continue to provide a commercial catering facility, the current wiring system and electric supply will need a comprehensive upgrade. The museum's tearoom catering facility is an integral part of the heritage site which provides hands-on experience of the area's railway heritage and serves to attract a varied demographic.

Find more information about how museums can measure their carbon footprint.

 

Project Sun Roof

Organisation: Gairloch Museum

Project:

We are currently installing photovoltaic (PV) panels on the flat roof of Gairloch Museum to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. Outputs of the installation of the PV panels will include: reduced electricity bills, an increasing benefit against future rises in energy costs, a substantial change in energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables, an excellent return on investment funding, a reduction in the Museum's carbon footprint, a reduction in dependence on the energy industry.

At the same time as the PV panels are installed, the Museum will mount a display about our energy production and consumption. This will consist of a display panel describing the benefits of the solar panel installation for the Museum and will include a digital display showing how much energy we are producing and using at various periods in time and how well the system works.

Find more information about energy efficiency.

Exhibition examples

Think Local, Act Global

Organisation: Museums & Galleries Edinburgh

Project Info:

Museums & Galleries Edinburgh ran an exhibition from March till August 2022 at the Museum of Edinburgh featuring artworks by Edinburgh school children and objects from the museum collection. The exhibition encouraged discussions about lifestyle impacts on the environment including upcycling, food miles, activism, sustainable materials and transport. Visitors contributed pledges to a pledge tree. Engagement with local communities included a family day, volunteer planting days, and the museum hosted groups from a local community hub.

Additional climate activity: They installed a mural in the museum’s courtyard to celebrate wildlife and plants from Edinburgh and installed carbon capture benches with insect hotels underneath. They also created a biodiverse garden in the courtyard with biochar, herbs and food plants.

Find more information about how Museums & Galleries Edinburgh are talking about climate change.

 

Sea Change

Organisation: University of Edinburgh

Project:

During COP26 we hosted an online exhibit called Sea Change about HMS Challenger which undertook a four-year voyage in 1972 on marine research to help us understand the deep sea. We used this exhibition to reveal the role scientific archives and collections play in establishing the impact of climate change in our oceans today.

Explore University of Edinburgh’s online exhibit Sea Change.

School engagement examples

Climate Activism School Workshop

Organisation: David Livingstone Birthplace

Project:

Engaging with the climate crisis is a key part of our Learning and Engagement strategy and forms part of our engagement plans with all our audiences, including volunteers, schools, youth and partnership work. During COP26 we held a climate focused secondary-school workshops in partnership with the RSPB that looked at the challenges of climate change and what schools and pupils could do. We were also invited to the Green Zone at COP26 so we were able to showcase our work and reach teachers and other audiences.

We also worked in partnership with the RSPB in a different way, through a Youth Gathering in October 2021 at David Livingstone Birthplace. The Learning Officer delivered a zine-making workshop as part of this gathering.

This is the exterior of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which is the entrance as you arrive, showing part of the roof, with an exterior wall and grass at the front.  the
Related guide

Environmental Sustainability: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

This is a case study on the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway that helps to show that by adopting a sustainable agenda, it has been possible to create a museum which successfully balances conservation needs alongside environmental needs, creating a better space for its collection and for its visitors.

Find out more