Bryony Robins, Museum Development Officer for Cornwall, recently headed to Brighton for the Museums Association conference. Alongside colleagues of CMP and The Castle Museum and Heritage Centre in Bude, Bryony highlighted the fantastic work which has, and continues to be carried out, throughout the small museums of Cornwall to tackle climate change. Read on to hear what Bryony has to say about the sessions and case studies from the conference.
I have long campaigned to raise the profile of the amazing and groundbreaking work by small museums that so often falls off the radar yet is something which we, in the wider sector could benefit from. I was delighted to have the opportunity to highlight some of the pioneering work they are doing to tackle climate change, at the Museums Association conference in Brighton earlier this month.
Plastic pollution is a particularly important issue for Cornwall. We have around 300 miles of coastline and you are never more than 20 miles from the sea. In Britain there is around 150 plastic bottles littering each mile of coastline and we use around 38 ½ million single use plastic bottles every day, of which less than half are recycled. Each plastic bottle takes 450 years to decay* – it’s clear to see we have an ongoing issue here.
Big Ideas, Small Museums was a workshop session with a film case study from Newquay Heritage Archive and Museum about tackling plastic pollution. The museum is a small independent charity which operates on an inside-out basis, meaning they concentrate their efforts on going out to where the people are through heritage walks, pop-up exhibitions, hotel talks and schools’ outreach, infiltrating heritage into any activity they can across the town. They work collaboratively within the heart of their community and are dependent entirely on the support of local partners, businesses and donations. You’ll find their short film, Together Against Plastic, at the end of this article.
The second case study was given by Janine King from the Castle Museum and Heritage Centre, Bude. Janine spoke about their ambition in becoming the UK’s greenest town and what the museum are doing to contribute towards this initiative through their learning activities, exhibitions and within the organisation through their operations, café and shop.
Participants at the session took part in round table discussions to share and brainstorm practical solutions that museums can adopt to improve their environmental impact. The ideas from this discussion coupled with those within the case studies and a further conversation within the National Museum Directors Council have fed into the following Green Museum Manifesto, designed for organisations to adapt and build on.
It was great to hear how many museums are already tackling this work, and the range of initiatives being taken towards reducing carbon footprint. As a sector, we can take a lead in reducing our carbon footprint and taking a stand towards a greener future.
– Bryony Robins
*Statistics from Surfers Against Sewage