Manchester Art Gallery Climate Justice Group - Museums Association

Manchester Art Gallery Climate Justice Group

Climate justice involves tackling social injustice. Those who do the least damage to the planet are being harmed the most. Those who hold the power and wealth are responsible for global warming. They have the least reason to change.

The Manchester Art Gallery Climate Justice Group started meeting online in July 2020. We are gallery staff, artists and activists based in the city. We understand that art collections are often displayed to reflect the stories of those in positions of power, leaving out the most marginalised groups. This is unjust.

We recognise a more democratic approach is needed to approach history. Joining the dots between climate change, colonialism and capitalism can help us to understand the structural changes needed.

Manchester gets much credit for its ‘radical’ history, the industrial revolution, and the cotton trade. Taking pride in our city’s history must come with the acknowledgement of the damage caused by industrialisation and its links to colonialism.

The Climate Justice gallery at Manchester Art Gallery can be a starting point for reviewing this history. Over time, we will use the gallery and collection to encourage collective learning and action on climate justice through:

  • Learning from history
  • Activating a different future
  • Scrutiny of policy makers
  • Collective working and care

Museums can prompt public engagement and work against the systems that promote climate injustice, starting by investigating their current collections. Moving forward we can ensure future collections and policy better reflect and make the connections for visitors, working with communities. 

In the Climate Justice gallery, our labels include the parts per million (PPM) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the year each artwork was made. The “safe level” of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been assessed as 350ppm – we passed this level in 1987.

The injustices of climate change highlighted within this gallery do not end when you leave this space. You’ll find them throughout the art gallery, all over the city and beyond.

Rabia Begum, artist, activist and student. View all members of the Climate Justice Group.