The Atrium at Bede's World

The North East Museum Development Programme

Sarah Carr, 15.10.2014
The Make Carbon History initiative
The Make Carbon History initiative is supporting museums in north east England to achieve a greater level of environmental sustainability. It is part of the North East Museum Development Programme, led by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Twam) and funded by Arts Council England.

The project began in January 2013 working with eight museums in year one and a further seven in year two.

Expert advice is provided by Walker Resource Management, and its support is helping museums to save money on utility bills, reduce CO2 emissions and generate income from renewable energy.

What makes the Make Carbon History project unique is that all 15 participating museums are committed to working together to reduce their combined carbon footprint by 12% by 2015.

The first group of eight museums are further on in their green journey. What has been great to see is how they are now sharing their knowledge and expertise with the seven new museums that have come on board in 2014.

Having a shared carbon reduction target has united the museums in their efforts to become more sustainable organisations and strengthened the network. As a collective, the museums are increasing their resilience through increased knowledge and peer support, and we recognise how valuable an asset this is to the sector.

We are fortunate that the funding allows the project to be delivered over a two-year period, which importantly provides comparable data and time to support museums through the full feasibility and implementation phases of larger capital projects.

Not only are museums realising significant reductions in energy costs and carbon, they are also using this project support to enhance their visitor experience, improve conservation, develop new links into local networks and reconnect with their buildings.

Information on the outcomes and impacts of the project as well as case studies are available on the website. 

Particular successes include the achievements of participating museums that, with help from this project, have gained regional and national awards. Killhope Museum achieved gold at the North East Tourism Awards 2013 and bronze at the 2014 VisitEngland Awards in the Sustainable Tourism category, and Woodhorn Museum has achieved a gold Green Business Tourism Award.

Bede’s World is also working towards becoming one of the first carbon neutral museums in the country.

Make Carbon History has already covered its budget in terms of cost savings and achievements but more importantly it is enabling the participating museums to build networks, solidarity and expertise to continue this journey towards a low carbon future.

Sarah Carr is the senior museum development officer at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums