Exploring the role of museums in tackling climate change
30 June 2021
An exhibition on how museums and galleries can help create solutions to the climate crisis has opened in Glasgow, curated by an expert from UCL.
Reimagining Museums for Climate Action at the Glasgow Science Centre presents a range of new, creative ideas in response to the challenges of the climate emergency, with exhibits from all over the world, including the United States, Singapore, Brazil and the UK.
The showcase has been carefully curated by Professor of Heritage Studies Rodney Harrison (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Dr Colin Sterling (University of Amsterdam) and Henry McGhie from the heritage consultancy Curating Tomorrow, in consultation with the Glasgow Science Centre.
It is expected to remain in place until November, when Glasgow will host COP26, the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference.
Professor Rodney Harrison said: “In the lead up to COP26, as the world focusses on how to address the climate emergency, Reimagining Museums for Climate Action explores how museums, galleries and collections, broadly defined, might help the world to secure global net zero and adapt to protect communities and natural habitats.
“In doing so, it makes an important argument for the value of participatory arts, humanities and social science-based research in developing creative solutions to the climate crisis.”
Giving an indication of what visitors can expect from the exhibition, Professor Harrison added: “The exhibition is composed of an introduction and eight individual exhibits which were developed by eight competition winning teams in consultation with the curators.
“The exhibits range from interactive models, to concept designs, to apps and short films.”
Reimagining Museums for Climate Action, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), began as a design and ideas competition, launched for International Museum Day last year.
Responding to the two main pillars of climate action – mitigation and adaptation – the competition asked how museums could help society make the deep, transformative changes needed to achieve a net-zero or zero-carbon world, as well as addressing their own large carbon footprints.
There were over 250 submissions from 48 countries, with proposals from architects, designers, activists, artists, student groups, academics, Indigenous communities and those already working within museums from across the globe.
Ideas focused on topics such as what museums collect, the stories they tell, the materials they are built of and the ways they support and work with communities. And, while some ideas are speculative, others are already being implemented.
Emma Woodham, climate change programme manager at Glasgow Science Centre, said: “The exhibition will make an important contribution to Glasgow Science Centre’s overall climate change programme, which aims to inform, inspire and empower people of all ages and background to engage with COP26, and take action on climate change in their own lives.”
Alongside this, for International Museum Day in May this year, the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action project team relaunched an expanded version of its website, which provides virtual access to the exhibition.
The site is divided into three sections – Rethink, Reimagine and Mobilise. It also includes research material from the project team, a host of further submissions to the design and ideas competition, and key resources to inspire radical climate action.
The site will be updated with even more material – including a museum toolkit and a book which expands on the exhibition concepts – in the run up to COP26.
Professor Harrison said: “The Museums for Climate Action website, alongside a forthcoming museum and climate action toolkit and publication, will provide a rich source of information and inspiration that can help museums, academics and the public at large to explore how they might be able to change to better support climate action.”
All resources will be freely available to download.
- Reimagining Museums for Climate Action
- Professor Rodney Harrison’s academic profile
- Professor Rodney Harrison's website
- Photograph by Stuart Wallace for Glasgow Science Centre
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3108 9440
Email: p.danby [at] ucl.ac.uk