Climate resources bank - Museums Association

Climate resources bank

Here you’ll find a library of useful tools and knowledge to help build climate action in the museum and heritage sector. The resources are listed under the three goals of our climate justice campaign:

Our current focus for the climate justice campaign is sustainable procurement, so under ‘be the change’ you will find resources to support you with this work.

The resource bank ends with a reading list of suggestions for further research.

Raise awareness

The Horniman Museum & Gardens has set up an Environment Champions Community
Art UK: Climate change and environmental learning resources

Art UK, the online home for public art collections in the UK, has created a resources round-up for teachers showcasing learning resources from across its partner collections in order to raise awareness and champion change.

Climate change and the environment resources (Art UK)

Stories, artworks and learning resources related to the climate crisis can also be found across its website.

Design Museum: Waste Age exhibition

An exhibition that explored how the design industry has contributed to creating an extractive throwaway culture but also how design can – and must – help to find less wasteful ways to live and consume. The show also considered how to design exhibitions to be less wasteful.

Waste Age case study (Teo)

Glasgow Museums: Scenes from Our Climate

A Smartify tour through the museum service’s paintings collection, to discuss the impacts of climate change and how these are reflected in the artworks.

Scenes from Our Climate tour (Smartify)

Horniman Museum & Gardens: Environment Champions Community

A community group that suggests activities people can do from home, at the museum or in their local community, to help them take action in their daily life.

Environment Champions Community (Horniman Museum & Gardens)

Indigo: Act Green research programme

Culture sector consultancy Indigo is researching audience attitudes towards the role of cultural organisations and their audiences in tackling the climate crisis.

Act Green (Indigo)

Museum of Water

A touring exhibition which displays a collection of publicly-donated water and tells stories of the people and places it comes from with a focus on raising environmental awareness.

Museum of Water

National Maritime Museum: Our Ocean, Our Planet

An online hub hosted by the museum to explore ocean issues, the climate crisis and our changing relationship with the sea. The hub combines scientific research with the latest developments in art and relevant discoveries from its collections.

Our Ocean, Our Planet (National Maritime Museum)

The museum also features a page in its online shop dedicated to sustainable products

Natural History Museum: Urban Nature Project

Led by the Natural History Museum with partners across the UK, this community engagement project aims to give people the motivation and tools they need to safeguard nature in urban spaces. The museum is transforming its own gardens into a biologically diverse green space.

Urban Nature Project (Natural History Museum)

Wardlaw Museum: Dive In exhibition

The Wardlaw Museum’s recent experimental exhibition explored how museums can have a positive impact on the environment by encouraging people to make sustainable decisions. The museum is working with a consultant in environmental behaviour change and is researching what effect the exhibition had on visitors.

Dive In (Wardlaw Museum)

Champion change

Students from University of Arts London held a Carnival of Crisis in 2021 to mobilise climate action © Ana Blumenkron
Climate Heritage Network

A membership organisation with a digital network covering topics such as the role of arts, culture and heritage in decarbonisation, and promoting climate solidarity. The network has produced an advocacy guide to help heritage organisations strengthen their advocacy to a range of audiences, including peers, workplace leaders and policymakers.

Communicating Climate Heritage Toolkit (Climate Heritage Network)

Climate Museum UK

Climate Museum UK is an experimental museum that curates and gathers responses to the Earth crisis. A collective of creatives from across the UK, the museum organises activations to help people play, create and talk about the crisis. It opens imaginations to possible futures, and builds skills to engage others with these issues.

Climate Museum UK

Climate Outreach

Climate Outreach seeks to effectively engage people with climate change, communicating the complex issue in ways that resonate with their sense of identity, values and worldview. Informed consent and support from people across society and around the world creates what they call a social mandate for climate action. They’ve released resources including:

Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

An international network that aims to build museums’ capacity to promote awareness, mitigation and resilience in the face of climate change. The organisation has a range of free resources on its website.

Resources (Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice)

Creative Carbon Scotland

Creative Carbon Scotland works with individuals, organisations and strategic bodies engaged across cultural and sustainability sectors to harness the role of culture in tackling the climate crisis. Through year-round work and one-off projects, it offers range of programmes supporting the development of artistic practices that address sustainability and climate change.

Creative Carbon Scotland

Culture Declares Emergency

A growing movement of people in arts and culture declaring a climate and ecological emergency. The movement pledges to tell truths, take action and seek justice.

Culture Declares Emergency

Curating Tomorrow

Curating Tomorrow, a consultancy that works with museums to develop their response to the climate and environmental crises, has produced a series of free publications. Actions for Climate Empowerment was published in April 2022.

Resources (Curating Tomorrow)

Fit for the Future

An environmental sustainability network that facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration across organisations and sectors. The network’s website features a range of case studies.

Successes (Fit for the Future)

Flow Associates: Culture Takes Action framework

Eight pathways to help cultural organisations plan their response to the Earth crisis. This post offers explanations of each pathway, and a link to download the full toolkit.

Culture Takes Action framework (Flow Associates)

Happy Museum Project

The Happy Museum Project supports museum practice that places wellbeing within an environmental and future-facing frame, rethinking the role that museums can play in creating more resilient people, places and planet. Its website features a suite of resources and case studies.

Resources (Happy Museum Project) 

The project has also produced a series of online conversations on the theme No Going Back.

Heritage Research Hub: Powering climate action through heritage policies, organisations, research and public programmes

A video exploring how cultural heritage institutions, researchers, practitioners, civil society actors and policymakers are responding to the climate emergency, and how might they achieve more integrated and radical action.

Powering climate action (Heritage Research Hub) 

Museums for Climate Action

This project was developed as the AHRC Heritage Priority Area contribution to COP26, with an international competition in 2020 resulting in an exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre before and during COP26. The project developed the following resources:

Museums & Climate Change Network

An international community of interest that shares ideas and inspiration about addressing the challenges of the climate crisis.

Museums & Climate Change Network

Museums for Future

An alliance that unites a global community of museum professionals and cultural institutions in the fight to remain below +1.5°C of global heating. The alliance lists actions and local groups on its website.

Museums for Future

Our Collections Matter

Launched by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Iccrom), this project aims to accelerate, increase and amplify activity in support of sustainable development through use, development and conservation of heritage collections. It is aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals and will provide practical tools and resources for collections-based institutions.

Our Collections Matter (Iccrom)

Be the change

Natural History Museum is moving its collections to a new low-carbon building Trustees of the Natural History Museum

Sustainable procurement resources

UK Sport: EDI and sustainability procurement guide

UK Sport has produced this guide to set out its expectations of suppliers and its commitment to EDI and sustainable procurement. The guide includes an EDI and sustainability questionnaire that must be completed to a satisfactory standard for any for company to be considered for any quote or to tender for a UK Sport contract.

While this guidance is not museum sector specific, it provides a useful framework for museums.

Know the score (UK Sport)

Julie’s Bicycle: The journey to selecting more sustainable suppliers with Metal Culture

Julie’s Bicycle has featured a case study on its website from Metal Culture, an arts organisation that has pledged to look into the impact of its suppliers. The case study provides an approach to selecting more sustainable suppliers.

Metal Culture case study (Julie’s Bicycle)

Bristol+Bath Creative R+D: Creative Climate Action Checklist

This toolkit is aimed at small creative SMEs, organisations, collectives, businesses and freelancers to support their climate action journey. Section 5 focuses on procurement, materials and waste.

It is the outcome of a series of interviews and workshops with a broad range of small creative practitioners and businesses in the Watershed and Pervasive Media Studio community.

Creative Climate Action Checklist (Bristol+Bath Creative R+D)

Design Museum: Guide – “Exhibition Design for Our Time”

This guide examines the opportunities for reducing impact across areas including shipping and transport, programming, design and construction, materials, communications and energy use. It includes a link to the carbon calculator/impact model developed by the Design Museum to make decisions, measure and reduce the carbon impact of temporary and touring exhibitions.

Exhibition Design for Our Time (Design Museum)

Practical tools and resources

Arts Green Book

The Green Book is an initiative by the cultural sectors – working with sustainability experts Buro Happold, and supported by Arts Council England and the Greater London Authority – to work more sustainably. It is a free resource for everyone in the UK arts sectors. The Arts Green Book : Sustainable Buildings provides guidance for making cultural buildings sustainable.

Arts Green Book

Cornwall Museums Partnership: Green Guide for Heritage Organisations

A guide containing quick, easy and low-cost actions for heritage organisations that want to tackle the climate crisis together. The guide has been researched, developed and produced by a group of emerging professionals who make up the Green Museums Collective.

Green Guide for Heritage Organisations (Cornwall Museums Partnership)

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios: Carbon Review Tool

This architectural practice has produced a free carbon review tool designed to estimate the whole life carbon of a building to inform decisions prior to detailed design. This makes potential carbon impacts clear to the client, architect and the design team from the outset of the process.

Carbon Review Tool (Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios)

Gallery Climate Coalition: Carbon Calculator

The GCC aims to facilitate the decarbonisation of the visual art sector and promote zero-waste practices. It has created a free carbon calculator, as well as sustainability guidelines covering areas such as shipping, travel, packaging and materials, and NFTs and digital.

Carbon Calculator (Gallery Climate Coalition)

Historic England: Research magazine, climate change special issue

The magazine’s 2021 special issue presents some of the ways in which Historic England and partners are working to help better understand and respond to the challenges of the climate crisis.

Climate change issue (Historic England: Research)

InsightX: A guide to funding cultural institutions in the climate crisis

A guide to help institutions navigate fundraising and protect themselves against reputational damage from corporate sponsorship and fundraising, as well as donations and borrowing from private individuals.

Funding guide (InsightX)

International Institute for Conservation (IIC): Nothing is Stable

The IIC brought together members and colleagues around the world during Cop26 to produce this film showing the work of conservators from Sudan to Egypt, UK to India and Antarctica. It demonstrates both the peril our cultural heritage faces from the climate emergency, and the steps the conservation profession is taking to address it.

Nothing is Stable (IIC)

In addition, the April/May 2022 issue of News in Conservation focuses on sustainability and climate action in conservation.

Julie’s Bicycle

Julie’s Bicycle is a non-profit mobilising the arts and cultural sectors to take action on the climate and ecological crisis. A range of resources are available on its website, including its guide for museums and heritage on taking creative climate action.

The organisation has also produced the Museums Environmental Framework resource, building on the environmental practice and leadership of a vital part of the UK’s cultural sector.

Julie’s Bicycle has also launched the Creative Climate Justice Hub, a dynamic library of climate justice resources curated for the arts and culture community.

Ki Culture

Ki Culture is a global organisation dedicated to creating actionable steps to make culture and heritage a leader moving towards a sustainable future. Ki Books offers step-by-step guides on implementing sustainable changes within cultural practitioners’ day-to-day practices, themed on waste and materials, social sustainability and energy.

Ki Books (Ki Culture)

Local Government Association (LGA)

As councils work to deliver net zero carbon by 2050, the LGA has launched a climate change hub offering an overview of the support it offers, and relevant events, publications and examples of best practice.

The LGA has also published a sustainable procurement toolkit for commissioners, procurement practitioners and contract managers to help them deliver local environmental, economic and social priorities.

Museums Galleries Scotland: Climate action resources

Museums Galleries Scotland has developed a range of climate action resources, including case studies and toolkits.

Climate action resources (Museums Galleries Scotland)

Museum Freecycle

A group for UK museums to exchange exhibition build items and other museum-specific materials for free in order to reduce the environmental footprint of the industry.

Museum Freecycle

National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC): Green Museums – Tackling the Climate Crisis

NMDC has produced a guide demonstrating the many different ways that museums are responding to the climate emergency. The report presents case studies from museums within the NMDC membership across three themes: research, public engagement and greening estates and operations.

Green Museums: Tackling the Climate Crisis (NMDC)

Network of European Museum Organisations (Nemo): Museums in the Climate Crisis

Published in 2022, this Nemo report details the results of a survey of museums from 38 countries across Europe on how they are addressing the climate emergency. The report outlines seven recommendations on how the sector can support a sustainable transition.

Museums in the Climate Crisis

Roots & Branches

Roots & Branches is a collaboration between the Carbon Literacy Project, Museum Development England and Manchester Museum. It aims to train and certify 1,500 people from 300 museums as Carbon Literate over the next two years and give an opportunity for museums to converse, experiment and test new ideas for a more sustainable future.

Roots & Branches (Museum Development UK)

One outcome of the Roots & Branches project is a carbon literacy toolkit for the museums sector, now available to all UK museums.

Sustainability in Conservation

Sustainability in Conservation (SiC) is a branch of Ki Culture dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainable practices in conservation of cultural heritage. SiC coordinates research projects and provides tips and tricks and information to conservators looking to be more environmentally responsible in their daily work.

Sustainability in Conservation

University of the Arts London (UAL): Collections Action Group

Staff working across UAL’s collections have formed a group to mobilise climate action. The group has collated resources for the museum and archive sectors on the collaborative platform Padlet, which can be hosted or updated on any website. The resources are listed under the following headings:

Strategies and statements

The V&A launched its sustainability plan in 2021. Its upcoming exhibition, Plastic: Remaking Our World, opens in 2023 V&A
Arts Council England

ACE’s 2020-30 strategy, Let’s Create, embeds environmental responsibility as one of its four key investment principles. There is an Investment Principles Resource Hub that brings together all of the resources ACE has developed to help organisations embed the principles across their work.

Arts Council England and the Design Council have produced a design guide for capital projects setting out the key principles for the development of cultural buildings. The guide features a chapter on sustainability.

Building excellence in the cultural sector (Arts Council England)

Brunel Museum: Sustainability statement

A statement outlining the steps Brunel Museum is taking to tackle the climate emergency.

Sustainability at the Brunel Museum (Brunel Museum)

Dundee Museum of Transport: Case study of actions

The museum has an ambition to become Europe’s first fully carbon neutral transport museum, and has published a case study outlining the actions it is taking to achieve this.

Environmental sustainability: Dundee Museum of Transport (Museums Galleries Scotland) 

Glasgow Women’s Library

The library has published a Net-Zero Handbook, a practical plan setting out the changes it will make to its building to reach “operational net zero” by 2030.

Net-Zero Handbook (Glasgow Women’s Library)

Horniman Museum & Gardens: Climate and Ecology Manifesto

A manifesto outlining the museum’s platform for action and the steps it will take to mitigate against the climate and ecological emergency.

Climate and Ecology Manifesto (Horniman Museum & Gardens)

Leeds Museums & Galleries

Leeds Museums & Galleries has an Environmental Sustainability Policy, and also lists examples and ambitions setting out how it intends to meet Leeds City Council’s environmental policy challenges across all of its sites.

Environmental Sustainability Policy (Leeds Museums & Galleries)

The museum also sets out the steps it took to put sustainable practice at the heart of its 2018 exhibition, Beavers to Weavers: The wonderful world of animal makers.

Creating a Sustainable Exhibition (Leeds Museums & Galleries)

National Archives (UK)

To coincide with Cop26, the National Archives held an event exploring the role of archives and the cultural heritage sector in supporting sustainability. Recordings of the event are available online.

Archives supporting environmental sustainability (National Archives blog)

The National Archives has also published information on its energy, environment and sustainability.

National Trust: Climate hazards map

The National Trust has produced the first mapping tool of its kind that illustrates climate hazards at some of its significant sites and offers solutions on how to tackle them. The map plots the trust’s sites alongside existing data on climate change related events to understand how risk factors could change by 2060.

Climate hazards map (National Trust)

Natural History Museum: Strategy to 2030

The museum’s strategy sets out the part it will play in tackling the planetary emergency as a global, scientific and cultural institution.

Strategy to 2030 (Natural History Museum)

Theatre Green Book

The Theatre Green Book creates a common sustainability standard for the UK theatre sector – many of the approaches outlined in the book may translate to other cultural institutions. Arts Council England is in the process of developing a similar resource specific to the museum sector.

Theatre Green Book

The Shift Project: Implementing Digital Sufficiency series

The Shift Project is a French thinktank advocating the shift to a post-carbon economy. This ongoing series of reports sets out a vision for designing digital practices and infrastructures that are resilient and sustainable.

Implementing Digital Sufficiency (The Shift Project)

V&A: Sustainability Plan 2021-24

Led by the MA’s climate champion trustee Sara Kassam, the V&A launched its first dedicated sustainability action plan in 2021. The plan sets out the museum’s sustainability ambitions across three areas: place, people and programme.

Sustainability Plan 2021-2024 (V&A)

Reading list


Art and Ecology Now, Andrew Brown, Thames & Hudson, 2015

Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts, Mel Evans, Pluto Press, 2015

Bending the Curve: Climate Change Solutions, edited by V Ramanathan, University of California, 2019

Climate Change and Museum Futures, Fiona R Cameron and Brett Neilson, Routledge, 2017

Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change, edited by Jennifer Newell, Kirsten Wehner and Libby Robin, Routledge, 2016

Environmental Sustainability at Historic Sites and Museums, Sarah Sutton, Natural History Book Service, 2015

Evolving Climate Change Policy and Museums, Henry McGhie, Museum Management and Curatorship, 2020, vol. 35, no. 6, pp. 653-662

Living with the Anthropocene, edited by Cameron Muir, Kirsten Wehner and Jenny Newell, NewSouth, 2020

Museum Activism, edited by Robert R Janes and Richard Sandell, Routledge, 2019

The Green Museum: A Primer on Environmental Practice, Second Edition, Sarah S Brophy and Elizabeth Wylie, AltaMira Press, 2013

The Sustainable Museum: How Museums Contribute to the Great Transformation, Christopher J Garthe, Routledge, available for preorder in November 2022

The Uncertainty Handbook, Adam Corner, Stephan Lewandosky, Mary Phillips and Olga Roberts, Bristol: Bristol University and Oxford: Climate Outreach, 2015

Head image from the Waste Age exhibition at the Design Museum, copyright Alexander Donka