Bristol Museum & Art Gallery joins global biodiversity coalition

Posted on by Lauren MacCarthy.

We’re very pleased to announce that Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has become the first UK institution, and seventh museum worldwide, to join the global coalition ‘United for #Biodiversity’.

United for Biodiversity was launched by EU Commissioner for Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, on World Wildlife Day 2020. It invites organisations and institutions such as science and natural history museums, botanic gardens, parks, research centres, zoos and aquariums, to join forces for nature.

At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, we care for one of the most significant natural history collections in the UK, with an estimated 1.35 million specimens collected from Bristol and beyond since the 1700s.

Through the coalition, we will collaborate with our global partners to understand how we can take collective action to help solve the nature crisis, at a time when 1 million species are at risk of extinction.

Other members and supporters of the coalition include the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF) which represents 63 institutions holding over half the world’s biological collections, as well as the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, the Biotopia of Munich, the Koenig Museum in Bonn, the Universeum of Gothenburg, the Natural Science Museum of Barcelona and the Museum of Natural History and Science of the University of Porto.

We are all invited to use our platforms to mobilise action against biodiversity loss, ahead of the crucial CoP 15 meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2021.

“With Bristol’s focus on collaboration and leadership in tackling the ecological crisis, it’s fitting that Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has become the first UK institution to join the United for Biodiversity coalition. Bristol was the first UK city to declare an ecological emergency and the museum team is committed to using their unique resources to help achieve Bristol’s vision of a wildlife-rich and ecologically resilient city that works for people and nature by 2030. The team has spent decades providing opportunities for people to learn about the natural world, and have increased their efforts further in response to the ecological emergency. This invitation from the European Commission shows the impact this work is having.”

– Councillor Afzal Shah, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology and Sustainable Growth at Bristol City Council:

You may remember our Extinction Voices display last year. We shrouded 32 animals in transparent black veils to highlight the threat of wildlife extinction and gather ideas for collective action. The exhibition was inspired by the latest IPBES report which outlined nature’s dangerous decline globally.

On a local level, historic natural history collections from the Bristol area stretching back over 200 years provide crucial evidence to understand the changing wild spaces of the city. We’re working to share this with open research databases such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help inform a worldwide picture.

Bristol’s collections can also help examine much wider issues. As a major port city linked to the transatlantic slave trade, Bristol’s world natural history collections were actively sourced by curators through ship’s captains and colonial connections for over a century.

We will be examining this legacy to reveal the untold histories that underlie the development of western knowledge of world wildlife. By sharing these stories we hope to challenge colonial legacies, including racism and erasure of indigenous knowledge systems, in how we talk about world wildlife today in order to support fair, just and inclusive action against the global ecological crisis.

This work will draw on the British Empire & Commonwealth Collection and colonial era cultural artefacts originating from local and indigenous communities worldwide.

“We’re honoured to be invited to join the United for Biodiversity coalition. Alongside our work to engage citizens with local wildlife, we also support research and education programmes, wildlife identification and creative practitioners. We’re looking forward to continuing working with Bristol’s communities to explore how we can bring more diverse perspectives to our world wildlife displays, and create more inclusive spaces to explore the global ecological crisis.”

– Ray Barnett, Head of Collections and Archives at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

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