Can museum learning help save the planet?
Kathy Moore, deputy chair of GEM and Museum Development Officer in the East of England reports on Climate Heritage network launch in Edinburgh 2019
This is the question we asked when GEM and Engage hosted a panel discussion at the Festival of Change at the MA Conference in Brighton last month.
With only 45 minutes we barely scratched the surface of this question, but I hope it was the start of a contribution to GEM’s response to the Climate Change agenda.
I also had the privilege to represent GEM at the global launch of the Climate Heritage network in Edinburgh on 24 October. This new networkhas a large global membership with varied interests around Climate Change from the conservation of site and collections in immediate danger, to the best way to retrofit buildings and other ways to reduce carbon footprints, to the areas that are of most direct professional interest of GEM members. I volunteered GEM’s contribution on the two most relevant of the steering groups being set up as part of the network: those connected with Public Engagement and Communication. I’m awaiting more details of how GEM can contribute.
Back in the UK, there is much admirable work in this area. Some has been happening in the background over many years (including some things I have done in Norfolk), but now the pace is gathering! This year, Kids in Museums have produced a great resource showing how museums can support Young People’s activism. The MA has just published an excellent series of posts in its Museum Practice publication written by Bridget McKenzie (Climate Museum UK) highlighting amongst other things, how museums of all kinds can and are responding to the Climate crisis with exhibitions and events. Henry McGhie launched Curating Tomorrow with helpful guides for museums.
What can GEM offer that is new or different in this area of practice? How can GEM best support its members in their work in this area? Whilst supporting the great work that is already happening, can we extend and add to it?
I firmly believe Museum Learning can help save the planet and that GEM should be working hard on this. Every museum has the potential to contribute.
We are planning to collaborate with Henry McGhie and others to produce training and resources in Museum Learning and Climate Change and how museums can support the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Museum Learning is a unique and powerful way to inspire and encourage people to want to know more and do more about Climate Change. Museums should be responsive to the interests and concerns of their audiences. We can use our collections, stories, and buildings to evidence, discuss, inspire about and understand Climate Change. Museum Learning can explore our own behaviours and the collective behaviours and policies of our community and country. We can inspire and educate the scientists and leaders of the future.
“Heritage anchors a sense of place- and every place has a climate story.”