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Reimagining Museums for Climate Action
Reimagining Museums for Climate Action began life as a design and ideas competition, launched on International Museum Day 2020. 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. Rather than focus on a specific location or type of museum, the competition invited proposals that aimed to unsettle and subvert the very foundations of museological thinking to support and encourage meaningful climate action. Importantly, we wanted to invite those who are not normally part of the conversation around museums to take part. We specifically asked for design and concept proposals that were radically different from the ‘traditional’ museum, or that explored new ways for traditional museums to operate. The responses, which could address any aspect of museum design and activity, ranged from the fantastical to the highly practical. We received more than 250 proposals from around 50 countries and with an international panel of judges, and in consultation with the Glasgow Science centre, we selected 8 winning proposals to develop their ideas as part of an exhibition, which launched as part of the Science Centre’s re-opening on June 25th 2021, and remained on display throughout November 2021, as part of the official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26 Green Zone. The exhibition was accompanied by talks, workshops and other activities in both the Blue and Green Zones of COP26, which aimed to encourage debate around the future role of museums in times of rapid environmental change. During COP26 we also launched an open access book and museums and climate action toolkit. Our website features 82 additional proposals from amongst those which were submitted to the competition. Throughout 2022 we will be organising a series of workshops around the toolkit to inspire further radical transformation in the museum sector to address the climate emergency. The exhibition was also part of the Google Arts and Culture COP26 Digital Green Zone, where it was featured as one of "5 incredible ideas from the COP26 Green Zone". The project, exhibition and workshops were funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and co-led by Rodney Harrison (UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA) under an extension to the AHRC Heritage Priority Area Leadership Fellowship project, FEC £116,850 funder contribution c.£93,480 plus an additional tranche of c.£60,000 to run the 2022 workshops and augment the toolkit and website) and Colin Sterling (University of Amsterdam) as part of his own AHRC Leadership Fellowship project, with Henry McGhie (Curating Tomorrow), and Emma Woodham and colleagues at the Glasgow Science Centre. At various stages we were supported on the project by research assistance from Janna Oud Ammerveld (PhD student) and Rowan Gard (postdoctoral researcher).
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