Earth Day is keeping us grounded

Find out more about Our Green Stories projects that are feeding into our Earth Day event

In our latest blog, Anna Jones, Museums Partnership Reading’s programme manager, looks at how recent projects and activities as part of the Our Green Stories campaign at Reading Museum and The MERL are feeding into our Earth Day event on Saturday 22nd April, and looks ahead at future plans, including an exciting opportunity during Reading Climate Festival…

Our Green Stories – the story so far

Last Autumn, Museums Partnership Reading kick-started Our Green Stories – a creative campaign exploring stories of the changing environment through museum collections and highlighting ways of building a sustainable future both locally and beyond.

Blogs have been written, gallery tours and information offered, events and activities programmed.  These have focused on exploring climate change, sustainability, biodiversity loss and related issues through our collections. We are also championing the people and organisations in our community that make Reading a more sustainable place to live, including our two parent organisations – the University of Reading (The MERL) and Reading Borough Council (Reading Museum).

The University of Reading’s Climate Stripes have attracted worldwide attention for its powerful visualisation of the climate emergency (even featuring as the cover of Greta Thunberg’s latest book). Meanwhile, Reading Borough Council’s work in reducing emissions has led to Reading’s inclusion (as one of only ten UK local authorities) in the A list of the Carbon Disclosure Project, a charity that holds the world’s most complete dataset of emissions.

The logo for Our Green Stories, an environmental and sustainability-related campaign by Museums Partnership Reading.

Life Below Water

During the 2023 Easter holiday, hundreds of families at both museums took part in creating a piece of artwork facilitated by local artist Rebecca Howard to consider natural heritage along Reading’s riverbanks and canals. These sessions also provided ideas about what can be done to support Life Below Water – one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals we are highlighting through Our Green Stories – and one that people told us they felt they could do the least about.

Create a Buzz

Over the last couple of months, Museums Partnership Reading have been working with students at Alfred Sutton Primary School and St John’s CE Primary School on Create A Buzz – to explore collections and how they resonate with the lives and habitats of insects – in particular bees.

These Reading students dug deep into our most relevant holdings and turned insect detectives – observing, identifying and exploring within our local wildlife corridor. They have been looking at the creation of habitats – including bee hotels – rich in biodiversity, using foraged materials working with our Create A Buzz partners Nature Nurture.

Their collective work celebrating bees will be exhibited at The MERL this Saturday as part of world-wide Earth Day, with the glorious garden here hosting activities for even more people to discover the importance of insects and biodiversity to our planet.

School children enjoying a create a buzz activity in the MERL garden, with a member of staff wearing a large daffodil head dress

The Wild Escape

Create A Buzz, culminating in our Earth Day: Invest in Our Planet event is all part of The Wild Escape and made possible by lead support from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants, with additional support from Art Fund. Museums Partnership Reading are proud to be involved in The Wild Escape, the largest ever collaboration between the UK’s museums.

Over 500 museums are taking part, organised by the Art Fund in partnership with the WWF, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the National Trust and English Heritage. It aims to inspire hundreds of thousands of children to visit museums and respond creatively to the threat to the UK’s natural environment and biodiversity by looking for animals featured in museum collections and creating their own wildlife artworks.

At our Earth Day event, visitors will be able to create a creature to add to our ‘Life Below Water’ collage and scan it to add it to the huge collective artwork being created as part of The Wild Escape

The Wild Escape logo of brightly colour animal silhouettes on a dark blue background

Earth Day

On Saturday 22nd April, we’ll be celebrating Earth Day 2023 with a free event in the MERL garden, with teams from Reading Museum, BBOWT, Nature Nuture and all kinds of activities to learn about biodiversity and the environment.

child painting flowers for Earth Day event

Gaia and Reading Climate Festival

Following Earth Day, you can visit Reading Museum at Reading Town Hall and see the astonishing Gaia created by artist Luke Jerram from high-resolution NASA imagery. Part of Reading Climate Festival 2023, the installation measures seven metres in diameter and will be suspended inside Reading’s historic Concert Hall. Gaia is a visual representation of the fragility and beauty of the earth. The piece is coming to the town as a call to action for Reading in taking steps to make our town net zero by 2030. The piece is coming to town from 10th – 18th June as a call to action for Reading in taking steps to make our town net zero by 2030.

silhouettes of people standing in front of a large image of teh earth

Future plans

And Museums Partnership Reading will continue to take our small steps. Through continuing Our Green Stories we will keep our feet on the ground, but our heads in the skies, dreaming – and doing – to make this little RG plot of Earth a better place to live.

We would love for you to join and shape this journey with us – look out for Our Green Stories events happening at The MERL and Reading Museum, including our ongoing consultation around the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are also out and about beyond our walls to talk with and engage more and different people – most usually through Museums On Wheels. This is our rolling (yes) programme bringing collections, creativity and conversations about environmental responsibility to a piece of earth near you…

Museums on Wheels logo showing images of Reading Museum and The MERL between the spokes of a wagon wheel

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