New exhibition re-imagines museums for climate action

A new exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre presents creative ideas about how museums and galleries might address the challenges of the climate emergency.

Running from 25 June, ‘Reimagining Museums for Climate Action’ explores how museums can help society make the deep, transformative changes needed to achieve a net-zero world, as well as addressing their own carbon footprints.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the exhibition will remain in place until November, coinciding with COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The exhibition is integrated within the Powering the Future display at the Science Centre to highlight the crucial role that people, ideas and cultural institutions have to play in shaping the world of tomorrow.

Museums driving meaningful change

The exhibition presents a range of proposals for how museums could support meaningful climate action.

It features a range of new ideas about:

  • the things museums collect
  • the stories they tell
  • the materials they are built of, and
  • the ways they support and work with communities.

Some of these ideas are speculative, even fantastical, while others are already being implemented.

A design and ideas competition

This exciting initiative began life as a design and ideas competition, launched on 18 May 2020 for International Museum Day.

Over 250 submissions were received from 48 countries, with proposals from:

  • architects
  • designers
  • activists
  • artists
  • student groups
  • academics
  • indigenous communities
  • those already working in museums globally.

The eight successful teams were then invited to develop their ideas for the exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre.

Catalysts for climate action

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 backgrounds to engage with COP26, and take action on climate change in their own lives.

Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellow, and co-curator of the exhibition, said:

It has been incredibly stimulating to work with the eight winning teams, the Glasgow Science Centre, and Polytechnic, the exhibition designers, to showcase the range of innovative and creative responses to our original call for concepts to explore the potential for museums to become catalysts for climate action.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of talks, workshops and other activities in the lead up to, and during the time of COP26 itself.

More information is available on the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action website and via Twitter.

Find out more about this project by listening to the Climate Change and Heritage episode of the AHRC and BBC Radio 3 Green Thinking podcast. The Green Thinking series explores issues linking climate challenge and society, in conversation with some of the UK’s leading researchers.

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