Roots & Branches – Carbon literate museums are the future

Roots & Branches is an ambitious, environmentally-driven partnership project led by Manchester Museum. It aims to accelerate the museum sector’s ability to respond to the climate crisis.

Roots & Branches is an environmentally-driven programme, focused on environmental sustainability, which has recently been awarded £136,750 of Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant funding. This ambitious two-year partnership project, led by Manchester Museum, in collaboration with Museum Development North West and the Carbon Literacy Trust, aims to accelerate the museum sector’s ability to respond to the climate crisis.

Sustainability has always been a core part of Manchester Museum’s work but it hasn’t always been a priority for all museums. But for everyone, including those involved in museums, over the last year it has been increasingly difficult to ignore the inequalities in our society, including those created by the climate crisis.

Museum Development North West is managed by and sits within Manchester Museum, and is funded by Arts Council England to support museums in the North West. Manchester Museum, Museum Development North West and the Carbon Literacy Trust have been working together since 2016 and, amongst other things, have delivered Carbon Literacy training to museum staff from across the North West. Within three years over 300 people from 46 different museums and sector organisations have attended the workshops and subsequently certified as Carbon Literate. The Roots & Branches project will build on this previous success and the need for action.

Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum, said: “We are thrilled to receive such timely and significant support from Arts Council England’s Project Grants. Manchester Museum’s commitment to the natural world is central to our core purpose. We are passionate about the role that museums can and should play – here in Manchester, and nationally – in addressing the climate emergency.”

“Through this unique collaboration with Museum Development North West and the Carbon Literacy Trust, this project will be pivotal in developing museum practice further, transforming our sector’s capacity to support ecological thinking and action to build a sustainable future and inspire post-pandemic green recovery.”

Why ‘Roots and Branches’?

Manchester Museum will host the ‘roots’, creating a nationally significant co-working hub of cultural environmental action that will bring together museum staff, educators, environmentalists, artists, researchers, third sector organisations and students – providing opportunities for thinking, wondering and exploring. This will be coordinated by an innovative new post shared between Manchester Museum and the Carbon Literacy Trust.

The branches of the project will create an environmentally aware and active museums sector, giving museums the tools to respond to environmental sustainability and climate change.

The big launch

The launch of Roots & Branches will coincide with the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2021. Over the next two years, this project will enable us to scale up the roll-out of Carbon Literacy training across museums in England. The aim is to train and certify as Carbon Literate 1,500 museum professionals and volunteers. It will also see 300 museums developing organisational pledges to take action against climate change.