Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 14, 2019

Neither male, nor female

Entomology Manchester

Weaving through mazes of ancient-looking cabinets, the ever-present scent of mothballs permeating the air, one can only begin to comprehend the breadth and magnitude of the Museum of Manchester’s entomological collection of 2.5 million specimens. Much of it was donated or bequeathed from individual collections, and as such, allows a fascinating representation of the history of entomology around the world. By studying these collections, we can not only gain insight into the insects themselves, we can reveal peculiarities about the contexts in which they were collected. In today’s blog post, I would like to introduce you to a drawer of particular interest, originating from the collection of Mr. Joseph Sidebotham.

Image_01_Sidebotham Josef Sidebotham, the frontispiece from Grindon’s (1886) memoir

Joseph Sidebotham (1824 – 1885) was a Mancunian businessman with a broad range of interests including, but certainly not limited to, natural history (Cook, 2015). A member of numerous scientific…

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Posted by: Rachel | April 16, 2019

City Nature Challenge comes to Greater Manchester!

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This year the City Nature Challenge comes to Greater Manchester. This is a worldwide biological recording event, organised globally by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences.

Between 26th and 29th April, over 150 cities worldwide will be competing to find and record urban wildlife. We will be pitting our wildlife spotting skills against the likes of San Francisco, Rome, Lima, Hong Kong, Liverpool and London.

There are two ways to get involved in this fun and friendly competition. You can take part independently using the iNaturalist app to record any wildlife you spot over that weekend. You could record the ladybirds living on your balcony, the birds in your local park or the mushrooms you’ve seen on a walk in the countryside. The app is available to download at

You can also get involved by joining us at one of the many wildlife recording events taking place that weekend in parks and greenspaces across Greater Manchester; held by some of the region’s leading conservation organisations.

On Thursday 25th April, Manchester Museum will be holding a pre-challenge evening celebrating urban wildlife. On Friday 26th recording events will be held at Moston Fairway, Sandilands Wood, Smithills Estate and University of Manchester campus. On Saturday 27th there will be recording events at Blackley Forest, Sandilands Woods, Smithills Estate, Alexandra Park and Whitworth Park. On Sunday 28th recording events will be held at Fletcher Moss Park and Dove Stone reservoir. Finally on Monday 29th recording events will be held at University of Manchester campus and Chorlton Ees.

Anyone is welcome to come along and have a go. More information on events taking place that weekend can be found by heading to and searching for ‘Greater Manchester City Nature Challenge‘.

Anyone who joins in will be helping to make a difference, mapping where wildlife lives in the city. The information from this weekend will be added to the UK’s biodiversity database, becoming part of the data used to protect nature.

Stuart Fraser, Environmental Records Officer for Greater Manchester Local Records Centre (GMLRC) said: “Recording your nature sightings is a great way for anyone to contribute to conservation. GMLRC uses records to highlight important areas for wildlife in the region; we produce protected/priority species reports for ecological consultants on Planning Applications, and they can help identify sites to be considered by GM districts for regional SBI status (Sites of Biological Importance). Records also help owners and organisations manage land for all species, and track how climate change, habitat management and other changes affect biodiversity over time – locally and nationally, as our records feed into the national NBN database.”

Posted by: henrymcghie | January 2, 2019

Arts Council England’s ten-year strategy consultation

Arts Council England, which provides significant funding for English museums as well as many other types of organisation and institution, has a consultation open on how it should be directing its funding for the period 2020–30. I put in a submission, and thought some people might find it interesting to know how I responded.

Arts Council England has identified a number of key challenges, but overall it was not clear how these had been selected, or how they connected with the wider landscape (Political, Environmental, Sociological, Technical, Legal, Economic considerations, I prefer ‘environmental’ to have the first ‘e’, rather than economic).

ACE statement: Across the population there are significant differences in how ‘arts and culture’ are defined, understood and valued.

My answer: Even within the sector, people talk about ‘arts’, which many museums and museum workers feel excluded from. It’s unclear how ACE supports science and incorporates science into policy, funding and support.

ACE statement: The business models of publicly funded cultural organisations are often fragile and generally lack the flexibility to address future challenges and opportunities, especially those relating to operating within the digital economy and within an environment of declining public funding.

My answer: The presumption here is one of declining public funding. That paradigm absolutely needs to be challenged. The cultural sector should not simply be going along with declines in funding in one of the largest economies in the world. That decline in funding underlies many of the issues that are hinted at in the questions above. Participation, in society and in culture, is easier for some than others. Funding is required to ensure that those who are less able to access culture, for whatever reason, are encouraged and empowered to do so. You really need to challenge the presumption that culture and society exist within the economy, rather than the other way around. This is especially important in a cultural sector, where people are recognised as individuals and citizens, with a right to participate in culture (as is outlined in the Declaration of Human Rights), rather than a consumerist, capitalist starting point.

ACE statement: Many cultural organisations are retreating from innovation, risk-taking and sustained talent development.

My answer: There is less and less funding available. Outputs are directly proportionate to inputs.

When asked which of four changes I thought was the most important, I chose “Culture and creativity make a positive difference to society, to the economy and to people’s lives. This case must be made more effectively, and demonstrated through stronger evidence.”

My answer: The focus should be on supporting culture and creativity. ACE should provide funding, easily, and proportionately, but should acknowledge that there are responsibilities to support maintenance and care and access to existing collections, rather than being solely focussed on new directions. Culture and creativity will make the greatest difference when they provide cobenefits for local and global perspectives and agendas. The questions could be stronger by making reference to e.g. UDHR, Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement. The consultation seems disconnected from real world issues and agendas that the UK is already signed up to, and that the cultural sector will be essential in enabling.

In a further selection, I selected “People from every background benefit from public investment in culture” as being particularly important.

My further explanation: There is very little between the range of answers above. As in my previous answer, ACE funding will make the biggest impact on the biggest number of people by addressing contemporary issues. For example, climate change will impact unfairly, so that the poorest and most disadvantaged, both within the UK and globally, will suffer the impacts most. By supporting adaptation and encouraging maximum global action to meet the challenge set out in the Paris Agreement, and to which the UK has signed up to, will ensure that ‘people from every background benefit from public investment in culture’.

In a section on the ACE challenge of “Creative R&D and talent development are flourishing… Arts Council England will invest in organisations that consistently identify, nurture and support creative talent and collections expertise.”

I answered: “This question has been the first mention of collections I have noticed. The questions are geared towards cultural experiences in a rather narrow sense, as the experiences of those visiting museums etc. The consultation could benefit from acknowledging that museums, culture and collections are many things to many people, and that the diverse usage of them is a key strength. Also, beneficiaries may be much wider, so may be e.g. beneficiaries of research carried out on museums and collections, contributions of collections data to e.g. nature conservation assessments and nature conservation policy/action. Again, if the presumption, as in previous questions, is of declining public funding, there needs to be a sense of reality about how R&D and talent are being developed and supported.”

ACE identified the following key challenge: “Cultural organisations are dynamic, focused on the future, and relevant… Cultural leaders will develop the skills and expertise to guide and govern enterprising and environmentally sustainable organisations.”

I answered: You could have benefited from reference to the Paris Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals here. The UK is a signatory to these, the cultural sector will be key to there having any chance of success. ACE really must step into a role of supporting these. They already exist and are a tremendous opportunity and challenge, yet this consultation seems unaware of them as a context.

ACE challenge: “England continues to increase its global reputation for the quality of its creative industries… Arts Council England will invest in an infrastructure of cultural buildings that are fit-for-purpose, and used collaboratively for the wider benefit of creative practitioners and audiences.”

My answer: These questions are predicated on growth, while earlier questions were predicated on reduced public funding. Those two are not sustainable [together]. Nor, indeed, is a model based on growth. The question should, to my mind, be framed in terms of purpose, as having a sustainable purpose and commitment to excellence will be the measures of a cultural sector. Focus on a cultural industry will only drive exclusion, and a market-driven approach that will sustain and increase barriers to access to cultural experiences.

ACE proposed to ‘Prioritise the proposed outcomes’

My answer: These outcomes are almost all internally focussed. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out a hugely ambitious programme to ensure that poverty is ended, there is zero hunger, there is a prosperous economy, climate change is held within 1.5 degrees, and biodiversity is protected, all by 2030. They are set out as an invitation and challenge for all sectors of society, everywhere, to participate. I really strongly encourage you to connect with the SDGs and Paris Agreement, I am rather surprised that they are not mentioned here.

Finally: Achieving the outcomes

I suggested: Be more attentive to external agendas as opportunities, and the context within which the cultural sector exists.

Provide challenge funding to promote between nature conservation agencies and natural history museums.

Fund documentation as a form of digital access. There is abundant evidence that digital access enables use.

Focus on the SDGs and Paris Agreement.

Fund individuals and consortia, not necessarily institutions, as they are where change will come from.

Clarify support for e.g. museums, science

The Sustainable Development Goals were first signed up to, including by the UK, in 2015, 3 years ago; they have 11 years left to be achieved. ACE seems almost unaware of them. I put in a submission to the Environmental Audit Committee recently on the implementation of the SDGs in the UK. DCMS will not currently factor activity from ACE-funded organisations into the reporting. This is a missed opportunity. If ACE really wants people to participate in culture and society, the SDGs are the best agenda around to connect with. Climate change experts have said there is roughly 12 years to reverse global climate emissions. ACE should be supporting the rapid, deep transition that is required to meet this, the ultimate societal challenge.


Hello- there’s been some interest in the museum world about finding out more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how to connect with them, and how museums can contribute. This is great news as they are a tremendous opportunity, and there is a tremendous need to help them along. There was a great report done last year by UNESCO, which is really easy to use. It introduces the background to the SDGs, a super-ambitious agenda to create a world that integrates people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, with a target date of 2030.  The SGD agenda is an open agenda: no-one needs to be invited to take part, and everyone has a role to play. Museums have some particular roles to play, as they reach large numbers of people, have unique resources, are used as the basis of research, and bring people and partners together. They occupy middle ground between the state and people’s lives, and can provide challenge and support to encourage and empower people to participate in creating the world they want.

ESD learning objectives

The 17 goals should be considered alongside one another: it’s not a good idea to cherry pick a small number of targets without considering the bigger picture. The SDG agenda really is a very beautiful and aspirational agenda that invites people to use their heads, hearts and hands to create a sustainable future.

Target 4.7 is a good starting point for museums: 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non- violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

I also really like target: 12.8 By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

The UNESCO report has been very, very cleverly put together, as it recognises that people’s  engagement with topics is not like some kind of class that has a start and finish like a lesson. Rather, people’s ongoing engagement is a combination of cognitive (thinking), affective (feeling) and behavioural (doing) aspects, all operating together. This is the definition of engagement I prefer to use, as its success is defined by how activities support people’s ongoing engagement.

Anyone interested in how the SDGs could be implemented in museums, or anywhere else for that matter, should have a look at the report, as it really is very useful for planning educational activities linked to sustainability and the SDGs.

Good luck!



Last year I sent out a survey to evaluate the nature conservation mission of UK museums: how they aim to support nature conservation, and manage their environmental impacts – both positive and negative. This was based on an expansion of a set of eight questions posed by Brian Miller and colleagues in an article published in 2004. The final report is available at this link:

Evaluating the nature conservation mission of museums FINAL

The report outlines what has been done – and what could be done – to contribute towards a future where people and nature flourish together. It aims to support a number of the Sustainable Development Goals. Anyone interested in this should get in touch with me at

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The report is intended to be useful for museum workers of all kinds, museum funders, policy makers, researchers and practitioners in related fields. As the report says, we need to ask the right questions in search of the solutions, and we need to work together to make them happen. The report is part of a suite of initiatives intended to help museums connect their work with constructive action towards environmental sustainability and climate action, called ‘Museum Partnerships for Future Earth’.


Key findings

What could be done …. and what has been done

The museum sector could support nature conservation and environmental sustainability by connecting with related policies and strategies at a sectoral and individual museum level, writing them into museum policy and strategy, and by championing this work from the top.

There is a strong feeling among museum workers that funders and the sector should incorporate nature conservation and environmental sustainability into the work of museums, but a similarly strong feeling that funders and the wider sector don’t currently recognise this role or its importance. Nevertheless, many museums, and many museum workers, connect their work with these subjects, and care strongly that they do so, promoting species conservation, climate change action and protecting endangered habitats. Museums with natural heritage collections play a particularly clear role in this area of work.

Realising the potential of museums requires a commitment of resources – financial and people – to engaging people with issues and action relating to nature conservation and environmental sustainability (for example through staffing, exhibitions, events for the public, activities for schools and community engagement) and to realise the potential of these collections for researchers.

More national and university museums commit funding dedicated to engaging people with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, when compared to local authority and trust/independent museums. Museums with natural heritage collections play a particularly key role in providing people with such opportunities, with opportunities to do more.

Collections relating to the natural world and people’s use of it are a key resource for museums, and for society. They not only document natural diversity, but are a creative tool for exploring ideas for a positive and sustainable future. They are an invaluable tool for public groups, policy makers and researchers seeking to understand natural diversity and the ways it is impacted by environmental change.

Huge numbers of preserved animals, plants, rocks, minerals and fossils are to be found in UK museums, amounting to something like 137 million individual specimens/objects. Most are to be found in national museums and the larger university museums. These are unique and irreplaceable, although they no doubt include some low quality material. These collections can support nature conservation and environmental sustainability, as can objects revealing people’s diverse relationships and interactions with nature, and the changing natural environment.

In order to be able to use collections effectively, museums need to have people skilled in environmental issues, who care about nature conservation, and who can communicate effectively with members of the public on such topics.

People trained and skilled in nature conservation and environmental sustainability are mostly to be found in museums with natural heritage collections. However, many such collections are looked after by people not confident in nature conservation or environmental sustainability, and few museums (including those with natural heritage collections) specify an interest in these topics when recruiting.

Museums can support education around nature conservation and environmental sustainability at all levels, and for a wide range of interests.

Many museums, notably those with natural heritage collections, support college and university education. Many natural heritage museums also deliver such teaching.

Museums form the basis for a great deal of research that supports nature conservation and environmental sustainability, mostly undertaken by external researchers, nationally and worldwide.

UK museums, notably those with natural history collections, probably contribute to 1,000s of research publications each year. These are largely based on explorations of specimens preserved in their collections, exploring natural diversity and environmental change.

Museums use large amounts of resources and there are opportunities to contribute positively to nature conservation and environmental sustainability in the ways these are used, and in terms of how they use their green spaces (where they have any).

Many museums use their green spaces to provide space for nature, encouraging wildlife, and providing opportunities for the public to experience nature directly. Many museums have sought to reduce their environmental impacts, notably their water use, use of electricity and use of paper. Some other impacts, notably those relating to food and their impacts on habitats, remain to be reduced widely.

By working in partnership museums can create opportunities to engage the public with nature conservation research and action.

Museums have a wide range of partnerships with nature conservation organisations and researchers, supporting research, and providing opportunities to communicate research.

Museums exhibitions can connect large numbers of people with nature conservation and environmental sustainability.

Many museums exhibit nature conservation and environmental sustainability, but often as a relatively small part of their exhibition programme. Museums with natural heritage collections often have ongoing support for nature conservation as a key outcome of such exhibitions.

By modelling and communicating support for nature conservation and environmental sustainability, museums can help promote and support the wider adoption of such activities.

Few museums aim to model good behaviour in terms of nature conservation or environmental sustainability; even fewer aim to be leaders in this area.

The need for effective nature conservation, and to engage people effectively with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, is growing ever more important. Conservation efforts are not making sufficient headway to halt the ongoing loss of biodiversity. Climate action will need to accelerate in order to reduce the impacts of climate change, and to help people, species and habitats adapt to change where possible.

Much remains to be done to connect museums with nature conservation and environmental sustainability, in order to support these areas more effectively. This will require funding, expertise and, most importantly, the will to make this happen.


I hope you find the report useful.


Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 11, 2018

Taxonomic Research and Collection Care

Entomology Manchester

When museum natural history collections are talked about, it is usually stressed upon how they are important for research (taxonomic, environmental and biodiversity, in particular), education and culture-related enquires (art, design, etc.) – e.g., see here. The following short video could also give you some ideas about the role of museum collections in taxonomic research (created by Jonathan Joseland, an undergraduate student at The University of Manchester, 2018).

However, much less is known about the importance of taxonomic research for collection care and development, particularly for the collections of such diverse groups as plants, molluscs, insects, crustaceans, and other arthropods. There are three main reasons why continuous taxonomic research on natural history collections is essential for their maintenance.

Fig_01 Fig. 1. A store box with undetermined specimens of ladybirds (Coccinellidae), one of some 300 store boxes with over 50,000 undetermined specimens of foreign beetles retained at the Manchester…

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Posted by: DmitriLogunov | May 11, 2018

Why do museums have natural history collections?

Entomology Manchester

Log_Fig_01_smal Fig. 1. View of an insect collection area in the Manchester Museum.

Natural history collections include specimens from the subject areas of zoology, botany, entomology, palaeontology and mineralogy (Fig. 1), as well as any documentation associated with them (e.g., card indexes of related museum collections, field notebooks, correspondence files, diaries, etc). Such collections exist not only in museums and herbaria, but also in botanical gardens, arboretums, zoos and aquaria. However, live animal or plant collections are outside the scope of this short essay. It is worth mentioning though that more than 70 known British zoos and aquaria house some 64,000 vertebrate species.

There are more than 200 public and private museums in the UK with natural history collections, 50 of them hold significant foreign material. Recent estimates suggest that the number of natural history specimens in British museums exceeds 100 million. Worldwide, there are more than three billion! Many of…

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I had the very great privilege to take part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Bonn this week, at the World Conference Centre.



The conference is called SB 48, the 48th meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies of UNCCC. The two bodies are the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), which helps accelerate and mainstream climate action.

On Tuesday we had a special, all-day workshop. This was formally mandated at the last SBI meeting, last November, and was to develop a list of actions to enhance the implementation of the Paris Agreement through ACE-related activities. ACE – Action for Climate Empowerment – is the name that was given to Article 6 of the original 1992 UNFCCC convention, and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement.  It is divided into 6 priority areas: education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international co-operation on these issues. The importance of ACE is incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals (2015), Global Action Programme for Education for Sustainable Development (GAP on ESD, 2014), the Aarhus Convention (2011) and the Bali Guidelines (2010).

We had introductory talks and great presentations of practical examples of mainstreaming climate action. IMG_9338

Then we worked in groups to help develop lists of key actions. I helped lead the group on public awareness. In ACE, this refers to REACHING ALL PEOPLE AND IN ALL WALKS OF LIFE- it is about connecting with everyone. I spoke about the importance of raising awareness at different levels; what follows is the text of my talk:

IMG_9545.JPGIn terms of personal awareness, this is about how we think about developing our own awareness to help support what is needed to support Action for Climate Empowerment- because this is how we start to empower ourselves– understanding what is possible, what we can do, what we want to do, and understanding how to do it with confidence, an open mind, and a commitment to success. It is about understanding that there will be challenges and false starts, and that communication will not always be easy, but about being aware of that to help support our personal and collective resilience.

We should look at raising awareness of what has been achieved: small steps, large steps, lessons learned, relationships developed and networks built. Accelerating climate action will be like nurturing a very young plant. The plant is delicate, and vulnerable. We need to nurture it and treat it with care. Small things can get squashed.

I found the three Talanoa questions really useful: Where are we, where do we want to go to, and how do we want to get there

If we can grow our own awareness, and really understand who we are, where we want to go, and how we want to get there, we can have a start for action, to plan, deliver and achieve what we want to achieve, and we will be in a strong place to work with others, and build productive relationships, programmes and action.

Secondly, growing our collective awareness. Who is doing what? Where can we find good examples of awareness raising that have led to real systemic change? Where can we find collaborators., and how should we work together? What frameworks can we use to talk about when we have little in common- a commitment to a better future, to the SDGs and Paris Agreement would be good places to start, and help to connect the local- which is where action happens, with the global.

No single type of institution reaches everyone- so we will need to get better at having some headlines, or an elevator pitch of what is important. This could come from e.g. the SDGs (the future we want) or from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We should all help raise awareness of ACE- at all levels, community, sector, national and international.

Thirdly, public awareness. I think the idea of ‘the public’ is far too vague- it needs to be broken down to groups, communities of interest, of association, societies. I spoke about the importance of genuinely seeking to understand people and connect with their hopes and concerns, as you can only influence someone from their own position. This means being aware of what matters to people, of their situation.

Climate action often focuses on communicating the problem, its importance and the impacts. There is a problem in that as the information has an effect on our emotional state. There is a psychological model that thoughts create feelings, and feelings drive behaviour. So, the feelings that drive behaviour are especially important. I’ve heard inspiration described as the feeling that moves us to action. That is just the kind of feeling we should be focussing on. But, people can be inspired by good things and bad things, and inspired to good things and bad things. We should be raising people’s awareness of challenges that are being faced, and met, and generating new ideas and ways forward. We should focus on what can be done, not what can’t; we should definitely focus on options and solutions. We should create opportunities to explore the middle ground to explore ideas, possibilities, options, and pathways.

We must make space for people to have the ability to shape a vision of a sustainable future to their local situation, to ensure greater buy in. The more people are involved and ACE is not ‘done to’ them, the more it will work. We need both local and global horizons. We need to amplify what is already happening, and we need to have some humility in this whole endeavour, as everyone has a part to play.

We should explore climate change action in terms of opportunities- who is doing what, what we want to do, each of us and all of us, and we should try to step into other people’s shoes- thinking with the Talanoa questions- who are they? Where do they want to go and why? And how do they want to get there?

How can we work with people to ensure that they can make choices that align with their values and constructive climate action?

Where can we find institutions and locations that can help create a new collective story of a future that works for everyone, everywhere, and which secures a safe, vibrant natural environment? In the Paris Agreement, it mentions the importance of civil society in supporting climate action. Civil society is not the public- and lots of institutions are not part of civil society. Especially important are those institutions and organisations that reach large numbers of people, and that are trusted, as this trust will help support people as they explore shifts in knowledge, attitudes and personal action, and that are scalable. Trust is what enables us to take the leap of faith, and to go from the known to the unknown. Trusted groups and institutions include scientists, universities, museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, elders and religious leaders. Trusted institutions will be different in different nations and circumstances.

Let’s try to imagine some near future- where people are suitably skilled – technically and emotionally – to meet the challenge of climate change, and wider sustainability. People are enabled to help the necessary shift happen, and adapt to changes we are already committed to. Where the public are aware of what needs to happen, they understand their own role, they understand the connections between what they value, what they think and what they do. They understand how, and why to hold others to account.

Where people are active architects of the future, rather than passive (or unconscious) consumers of the present. Just as climate change was ultimately caused by billions of decisions and choices, so it will be rebalanced by billions of decisions and choices. As an example of institutions that can raise public awareness by doing things differently, museums reach a very broad spectrum of society, and seek to broaden their reach. Museums are increasingly recognising the importance of their role, as recognised through the Tokyo Protocol, adopted at the 2017 Science Centre World Summit, on museums’ role in supporting the SDGs. Museums have a key role in supporting the 17 SDGs, notably around target 4.7 (education for sustainable development), but across many of the goals. Museums can raise awareness of climate change and constructive climate action through exhibitions and public events. Learning is lifelong, and museums help facilitate intergenerational learning and dialogue. Museums can help communicate and promote climate action locally and globally, encouraging participation and personal action.

Museums, and other institutions, can take a different position to try things out- to help people develop their shared awareness of what is happening, and what needs to happen around climate action, and how they can take part. Making the connection between people’s lives and the wider world is a great role for museums to take- helping people give voice to what matters to them, and reflecting that back to people, and helping people share their views with one another.

We held a conference in Manchester in early April, on Climate Change and Museums, UNFCCC, IPCC were there, along with academics and museum workers. The conclusion from that conference was that we believe that all types of museums have something to offer to climate education and empowerment, whether they be science or natural history museums, archaeology or anthropology museums, military museums, or other museum types. Each type can help people understand the history, present impacts, and future impacts of climate change and its repercussions on society, the economy and the natural environment. Exhibits in local museums can be focussed towards climate change education, awareness raising, and action. By way of example, Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, has an internal commitment to playing a key role in Action for Climate Empowerment, locally and, by extension, internationally. The Museum holds a large number of events linked with climate change and climate action. The Museum was involved in the development and implementation of Manchester’s climate change action policy, ‘Manchester A Certain Future’.

Stronger co-ordination between museums, other stakeholders such as policy makers, UNFCCC, IPCC and other actors, networks of researchers and community groups would help to accelerate Action for Climate Empowerment. Many museums are already connecting with the objectives of ACE. I’d encourage you to think what networks could be developed, locally, nationally and internationally, to support stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships, and how information can be shared between different organisations, and in what form, to help accelerate climate education and empowerment.

In very practical terms, at the conference we worked on a template for a climate exhibition for anywhere that can be adapted to the local situation. We should have this ready by the end of the year.

Some questions to consider:

Who has what resources that can help with public awareness around the SOLUTIONS towards climate action?

Who has the MOTIVATION to support climate action?

Who has the EXPERTISE in reaching lots of people in empowering ways?

Who can influence the influencers to support climate action?

What global challenges have been overcome before, and how, and how can we learn from previous experiences.

How can we grow the collective awareness, to emphasise that this is a great challenge, but a great opportunity for people to get past their differences for a common purpose.

Awareness of what has been done, what can be done, what we want to do, and how we can do it.

To promote high quality awareness of thinking, feeling and doing.

We identified four key ways to help accelerate public awareness:

  1. Communicate messages using non-traditional and diverse methods in order to reach the widest range people possible.
  2. Focus on positive, solutions-based, messages, and help support opportunities for individuals and communities to express their ideas, solutions and existing climate action
  3. Make participation in UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings more accessible, and information relating to these meetings easier to understand
  4. Use existing communities and infrastructure to amplify messages (as opposed to start efforts from scratch).


More general points were also made regarding public awareness:

  1. Launch public awareness campaigns
  2. Make options for climate action clear to everyone and identify actions that people can take
  3. Tailor messages to the audience
  4. Include the older generation, and not just the young. Acknowledge that different generations have different realities and exposures to issues.
  5. Focus on what can be done, climate action that people can take instead of the negative aspects
  6. Link people together to optimize multiple perspectives and lessons learned.


The full notes from the workshop are available.

Later in the day we had a short video from Emlyn Koster of North Carolina Museum of Natural History, on the work of museums in support of the Paris Agreement. Emlyn spoke about the way we are increasingly working together, through networks such as the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice and the Museums and Climate Change Network.


Afterwards I had the floor for a short time to re-emphasise to negotiators and other stakeholders present that museums enjoy a lot of public trust, they reach lots of people, they have tremendous freedom on what they programme and connect with, and that lots of museums are already working on this and want to do more.

Overall, the conference was excellent, and the workshop helped focus on solutions and action. This will go forward to negotiators to consider, and really felt like a step in the right direction.



Entomology Manchester

Copris lunaris Horned Dung Beetle (Copris lunaris; family Scarabaeidae) from the collection of the Manchester Museum. © Martin Wilson.

About 25-30% of the visitors to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department are designers, artists and photographers who come to get inspired by the great diversity of shapes, colours and forms of millions of insects that are retained there. One of the photographers who have been attracted and inspired by our insect collections is Martin Wilson, a photography student from University Centre Blackburn College (accredited by Lancaster University). The aim of Martin’s current project is to create a series of high-quality macro photographs of endangered British insects, some of which – like the Horned Dung Beetle (Copris lunaris) depicted above – are in decline or already became extinct. From November 2018 till March 2018, the Manchester Museum will hold an exhibition of the excellent photographs created by Martin Wilson in order to…

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If you are interested in attending, please register at

staycity Conference accommodation is kindly supported by StayCity ApartHotels, Piccadilly Approach, Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester M1 2TP


The conference will be held in the Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester, Lime Grove, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP



9:15–9:50 Welcoming remarks and Introduction. Museums and climate change: where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we want to get there?

Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum, and Walter Leal, MMU


9:50–10:00 The International Council of Museums and Climate Change

Diana Pardue, Executive Board Member, ICOM


10:00–10:15 Remarks on Museums and Climate Change

Robert R. Janes, Founder and Co-chair, Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (pre-recorded interview)


10:15–10:45 Museums and Science Centres as Provocateurs and Change Agents in Climate Change Action

Prof. Fiona Cameron, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia

In this presentation I discuss key findings from the Australian Research Council funded international project, “Hot Science Global Citizens: The Agency of the Museum Sector in Climate Change Interventions” (2008-2012) The project looked to the museum sector – natural history, science museums and science centres – to play a role as resource, catalyst and change agent in climate change debates and decision-making locally and globally. We used an interdisciplinary approach to develop new knowledge about what constitutes effective action around climate change, and how it can be represented and debated in local and global public spheres.  Here I focus on the research findings relating to the current and potential roles and agencies of natural history, science museums and science centres in climate change action within Australian and US contexts. Through the analysis, eight strategic positions and role changes emerge for the different forms of the museum with a greater emphasis on collective action, networking and building more critical information on climate change as a complex issue and governing subject alongside activism in community and political contexts.


10:45–11:15 Break


11:15–11:45 Nature-focused museums in the Anthropocene: engaging communities in the dynamics of the natural world

Emlyn Koster, PhD, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, USA

The rising popularity of the Anthropocene as a scholarly and public frame of reference for the intensifying role of humanity as a geological force presents new and urgent opportunities for museums to engage their communities in the changing dynamics of the natural world. While climate change predominates the news, arguably a better approach for the long and wide responsibility of nature and science museums is a multifaceted one which view atmospheric changes in a whole-Earth context inseparable from the changes underway in the hydrosphere, biosphere (including the ‘humanosphere’ and ‘technosphere’), pedosphere, cryosphere, and lithosphere. Ideally also, each provides citizen science opportunities. For museums to be vital resources in the Anthropocene requires an externally-mindful mission; a holistic past-present-future timeframe; seamless coverage of natural and anthropogenic forces; a diversified toolkit of experiences offering dialogue as much as exhibition; leverage of teachable moments in the news; and reference to global platforms such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Recent physical, cultural, content, audience, and outreach developments at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences provide an instructive example. With a mission ‘to illuminate the natural world and inspire its conservation’, this institution’s onsite, offsite, outdoor and online experiences ask ‘what do we know?’, ‘how do we know?’, ‘what is happening now?’, and ‘how can the public participate?’.


11:45–1:00 Parallel sessions (two in parallel)

Session A

11:45–12:10          The Possible Museum: Future Scenarios

Bridget McKenzie, Director, Flow Associates, UK


12:10–12:35          Active Stewardship: re-imagining museums as places of change towards a sustainable future

Hilary Jennings, Director, Happy Museum Project, UK


12:35–1:00            Heidegger’s jug, museum collections and sustainability

Morien Rees, Varanger Museum, Norway


Session B

11:45–12:10          Enduring Connections – Museums, Objects and Climate Change in Kiribati

Anna Woodham, King’s College London


12:10–12:35          Climate change and sea level rise: collecting the impact on Scottish saline lagoons

Fiona Ware and Sankurie Pye, National Museums Scotland, UK


12:35–1:00            Natural History Collections and historical body size changes in animals: how collections can help unravel the impacts of climate change and predict future changes

Rebecca Wilson-Brodie, University of Southampton and Natural History Museum, UK


1:00–2:00 Lunch


2:00–3:30 Parallel sessions (two in parallel)

Session C

2:00–2:30               UK museums’ environmental practice – progress, challenges and opportunities

Claire Buckley, Julie’s Bicycle, UK


2:30–3:00               Development of Life Cycle Assessment Tool for Custodians of Cultural Heritage: Challenges and Goals

Sarah Nunberg, Fine Arts Conservator, The Objects Conservation Studio, LLC


3:00–3:30               Collaboration: The First Line of Defence – Sharing Historic Environment Scotland’s Approach to Assessing Climate Change Risk and its Impact on Collections

                                   David Harkin, Historic Environment Scotland


Session D

2:00–2:30               “We have no Planet B”: using cultural engagement to inform climate change policy at a local level

Sarah Mander, Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, UK


2:30–3:00               Co-operation between Science Museums and NGOs towards Climate Change Actions

Jingjing Qian, Low Carbon Science and Technology Museum of Hangzhou China


3:00–3:30               Environmental entrepreneurship: adapting our museums for a greener future

Elliot Goodger, Museums’ Association Rep., West Midlands, UK


3:30–4:00 Break


4:00–4:45 Creating a museum dedicated to climate change

Miranda Massie, Director, The Climate Museum, New York, USA

The Climate Museum is a New York City initiative to create a museum dedicated to building popular civic engagement with climate change. We strongly share the view of the International Symposium on Climate Change and Museums that museums, through interdisciplinary exhibitions and other programming, can play a critical role in the culture shift we so badly need on climate–what Robert J. Lifton would call the “climate swerve.” Museums are popular and trusted, with proven educational and prosocial outcomes. They make learning palpable and social. They express our shared priorities. In short, museums are major civic institutions with a transformative power that has yet to be mobilized sufficiently on climate.

This potential can best be realized through content distributed across the established institutions represented at the Symposium combined with the establishment of new dedicated hubs like the one we are working to create in New York. As in policy efforts to address the climate crisis, far-reaching, intensive, and multi-directional collaborations will be required for us to fulfill the promise of generative museum work on climate change. We propose to present our theory of change and a summary of our organizational history, in order to build toward a discussion of collaborations we might consider together. Every museum can be a climate museum and – given where we are in human and Earth history – every museum should be a climate museum.



9:15–9:45 The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and museums: a strategy for disseminating IPCC reports

Jonathan Lynn, Head of Communications, IPCC


9:45–10:30 ‘Melting the Poles’: how museums can reach new audiences and overcome polarisation through narratives of shared values

George Marshall, Director of Projects, Climate Outreach, UK

In many countries, especially the English-speaking world, few other issues are as politically and socially polarised as climate change. There is an urgent need to bridge these divides and find new ways of speaking about climate change, and the science behind it, that builds shared consensus and co-operation. Museums are trusted intermediaries with exceptional reach across schools, communities, and reach into the more sceptical, conservative audiences.

Yet museums also struggle to reach new demographics and this experience can inform climate communication. In turn, talking about climate change could be a means for them to expand their curatorial choices and to reach out to new audiences. Drawing on 10 years of evidence-based research, and practical examples, George Marshall will outline key recommendations in speaking more effectively about climate change.


10:30–11:00 Break


11:00–12:00 Parallel sessions (two in parallel)

Session E

11:00–11:30          Climate hack: rapid prototyping new displays in multi-disciplinary museums

Charlotte Connelly, University of Cambridge, UK


11:30–12:00          Climate Change: a different narrative

Henry McGhie, Manchester Museum, UK


Session F

11:00–11:30          A mobile-guided smart-safari on an extracurricular location

Dr. Sascha Henninger and Tanja Kaiser, University of Kaiserlautern, Germany


11:30–12:00          Analysis of the organization to low carbon education activity in science and technology museums based on the activity of “Low Carbon Changes the Environment

Niu Lulu, Hangzhou Low Carbon Science and Technology Museum, China


12:00–1:00 Lunch


1:00–4:00 (including break at 2:30–3:00)

Participatory workshop, collaborating on creating climate engagement: Designing a ‘Localisable’ Climate Exhibition for Anywhere

Jenny Newell, Fiona Cameron, Morien Rees, Kirsten Wehner, Henry McGhie, Miranda Massie

Join a small group of curators and designers from museums around the world to take the first, substantial step in developing a shared, downloadable template for a pop-up ‘Climate Exhibition for Anywhere’. Jumping off from the open-source hardware movement, this workshop is directed at creating a template for an accessible, small-scale exhibition aimed at fostering constructive engagement in climate action.  The resulting exhibition would be tailored for specific audiences, and would share powerful stories and imagery that are both local and global.




9:15–9:45 Creative Collaborations: Communities, Collections and Environmental Change

Dr Jenny Newell, Manager, Pacific and International Collections, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia

Many museum workers know at first hand the potency of having communities and collections come together. Typically transformative experiences for all involved, these meetings are generative of new knowledge and powerful, deeply-felt connections. When community members find that these encounters spark reflections on changing environments – whether around things that can no longer be made, or knowledge that no longer applies – the insights generated can be usefully taken out and shared in public spaces. These perspectives can help audiences in the Global North to understand the challenges of global climate change for their own communities as well as for those in the Global South. Museums have been moving in recent years from scientific explanations of climate change to more interactive, culturally-engaged modes of approaching the issues. Considering human and cultural dimensions, museums have been gradually exploring more imaginative ways to captivate audiences and communicate views from those on the “front line”. Using several case studies drawn from collaborations between museums and Pacific Island communities, this paper explores the fostering of climate-engaged citizens that can emerge from creative connections between communities and collections.


9:45–10:15 Localising the Anthropocene: Re-shaping museum practice to engage and connect Australian communities responding to environmental change

Dr Kirsten Wehner, Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, Australia

Localising the Anthropocene: Everyday Futures in the Australian Age of Humans is a multi-year collaboration between researchers and curators at the Sydney Environment Institute, the University of NSW, the Australian National University, the National Museum of Australia and the Australian Museum. The project explores how people across Australia and the region are experiencing and responding to climate and related Anthropocenic cultural-ecological changes in their places. It aims to create a series of representational and social spaces, including a digital platform, story-telling workshops and co-generated museum exhibition events, that enable communities to tell, share and connect across the moral, social and environmental challenges of the era. Reflecting museum investment and expertise in the poetics of material culture and materiality, and particularly the capacity of artefacts to embody people’s inter-relationships with their physical and social environments, Everyday Futures centres on a methodology of ‘object-stories’. Participants select an object – three-dimensional artifact, image, text, sound or landscape – and reflect through text, spoken word or video on how that object signals and expresses their own experience of and response to how their places are changing. As the project progresses, object-stories are collected and shared with an accumulating network of participants, each contributing to the co-creation of the website and travelling ‘story-exchange’ exhibition. This talk introduces and reflects on Everyday Futures’ character, challenges and achievements to date, focusing particularly on how the project has endeavoured to develop museum traditions that enable collective public engagement with complex contemporary issues. Moving away from a focus on communicating the science of climate change, Everyday Futures aims to generate public capacity to engage climate change and related environmental transformations as cultural, conceptual and creative problems that must be addressed not only in terms of individual behavioural patterns and policy and regulatory schemes, but also, and perhaps more importantly, through the fostering of new collective cultural and social practices and identities.


10:15–10:30 Communicating Climate Change and the Anthropocene: A Special Opportunity for Natural History Museums

Eric Dorfman, PhD, Director, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, USA (pre-recorded message)


10:30–11:00 Break


11:00–11:30 At Adaptation End: Working Across the Cultural Heritage Spectrum to Address Community-Scale Loss and Damage

Andrew Potts, International Council on Monuments and Sites, US


11:30–12:30 Parallel sessions (two sessions)

Session G

11:30–12:00          Creating Change in the Field: Standards, Practice Guides, and Hashtags

Sarah Sutton LEED-AP, Sustainable Museums, USA


12:00–12:30          The role of museum archaeology in the communication of climate change

Jess Collins, University of Exeter, UK


Session H

11:30–12:00          Communicating Climate Change: Reactions to Adapt and Survive exhibition and visitors’ thoughts about climate change in the Pacific islands region

Sarah Hemstock, Bishop Grosseste University and the University of the South Pacific, UK and Fiji


12:00–12:30          Treasuring Evaporation, the radical challenge of Museum of Water

Amy Sharrocks, Museum of Water, UK


12:30–1:30 Lunch


1:30–3:00 Parallel sessions (two sessions)

Session I

1:30–2:00               Participation of science museums in enabling climate action

Xiaofang Jin, Low Carbon Science and Technology Museum of Hangzhou China


2:00–2:30               (Climate) data is just stories without a soul

Asher Minns, Tyndall Centre, Norwich, UK


2:30–3:00               The Role of Science Drama for Public Participation in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Han Jun, Low Carbon Science and Technology Museum of Hangzhou China


Session J

1:30–2:00               The movement for ‘Fossil Free Culture’ – from oil sponsorship to climate justice

                                    Chris Garrard, Co-director, Culture Unstained, UK


2:00–2:30               Optimizing energy efficiency of museums with a new laboratory for testing unpowered museum display cabinets

James Crawford, Sustainable Microclimates, Birmingham, UK


3:00–3:30 Break


3:30–4:30 Closing session. Museums and climate change: where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we want to get there?




Robert R. Janes, Founder and Co-chair, Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

Robert Janes is an independent scholar-practitioner, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Museum Management and Curatorship, a Visiting Fellow at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester (UK), and a member of the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars. He is the founder and the Co-Chair of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice. He has worked with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples (First Nations and Inuit) throughout his career and was given a traditional Blackfoot name in 1995. He has devoted his career to championing museums as important social institutions that can make a difference in the lives of individuals and their communities. His museum publications have been translated into nine languages and his latest book, Museums without Borders (Routledge 2016), is a collection of nearly 40 years of his writing.


Prof. Fiona Cameron, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, NSW, Australia

Professor Fiona Cameron is currently based as Linkoping University, Norrkoping, Sweden.  Fiona is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, Australia. Her research and writing focuses on the idea of the museum and interrelationships between institutions and contemporary societies in an increasingly complex and globalising world. Fiona works across two broad fields. The first examines the agency of the museum sector in public culture in the representation of ‘hot’ topics of societal significance, most importantly climate change. The second area of research interest is digital heritage. Cameron was also a museum practitioner and has worked in the sector as a museum director, a social history curator and as a curatorial consultant on major exhibition projects in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Vanuatu for more than 15 years. In March 2011 Fiona led an Australian federal parliamentary briefing A Climate for Change on the findings of Hot Science, Global Citizens to parliamentarians, government department employees, academics and the museum sector. The research has been used in policy development.


Emlyn Koster, PhD, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, USA

Dr Emlyn Koster is a geologist and museologist with scores of presentations and publications in each sector. A past president of the Geological Association of Canada, his career began with university faculty and research agency positions and moved to CEO appointments of major nature and science museums, since 2013 at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. An adjunct professor of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University, he is also the founding chair of the Working Group on the Anthropocene for the Committee on Museums and Collections of Natural History of the International Council of Museums.


Miranda Massie, Director, The Climate Museum, New York, USA

Miranda Massie is founder and director of the Climate Museum. Previously, she was legal director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), where she also served terms as general counsel and interim executive director. Before her time at NYLPI, she was a civil rights impact litigator, in which role she won Fletcher Foundation and W.E.B. Dubois Institute fellowships. Miranda served as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School and a mentor-in-residence at Yale Law School. 


George Marshall, Director of Projects, Climate Outreach, UK

George Marshall is one of Europe’s leading experts in climate change communication, and is the founder of Climate Outreach, a non-profit that advises British and European governments, the IPCC, UNFCCC, World Bank and most major international environmental organisations. George has led Climate Outreach’s pioneering programme to identify and test new narratives around climate change for people of centre-right values to help overcome the political polarisation that undermines social acceptance and policy action. George is also driving the Global Narratives programme, developed to train community-level organisations to conduct rigorous qualitative research themselves with their own audiences, based on Climate Outreach’s Narrative Workshop methodology. He is the author of an acclaimed book on the psychology of climate change: Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, which included detailed analyses of the representation of climate change in the London Science Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.  


Eric Dorfman, PhD, Director, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, USA

Dr Eric Dorfman is Director of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History and President of the International Council of Museums Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History (ICOM NATHIST). He completed a master’s degree through San Jose State University studying the behavioural ecology of porpoises in Monterey Bay, California and a doctorate at The University of Sydney on scale-dependent habitat use of waterbirds in eastern and central Australia. Eric is active in the natural history museum sector internationally, co-authoring the ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums, as well as chairing the ICOM NATHIST Wildlife Trafficking Working Group. He is an author of several popular books on New Zealand natural history and climate change, as well as papers on museum business models, public programming, Egyptology and the ecology of wetland birds. His most recent authorship is as editor of ‘The Future of Natural History Museums’ (Routledge 2017). He is a board member of Visit Pittsburgh and an adjunct professor at University of Pittsburgh and on the editor board of Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. Prior to his current position, he was Director of Whanganui Regional Museum in New Zealand and lectured in the Museums and Heritage Studies Department of Victoria University of Wellington.


Dr Jenny Newell, Manager, Pacific and International Collections, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia

Dr Jenny Newell is a curator who works in the environmental humanities, focusing on climate change in the Pacific and Australia. Jenny is a manager of collections at the Australian Museum and has worked with Pacific communities, histories, and collections in London (British Museum), New York (American Museum of Natural History) and Australia (National Museum of Australia and AM). Her books are Trading Nature: Tahitians, Europeans and Ecological Exchange; Pacific Art in Detail; and the co-edited volume Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change. Current projects include a community arts program “Oceania Rising: Climate Change in our Region”, and ongoing collaborations in the Marshall Islands and Fiji. She convenes the Museums and Climate Change Network (


Dr Kirsten Wehner, Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney, Australia

Dr Kirsten Wehner is a curator, designer and visual anthropologist whose practice explores how spaces and experiences can foster cross-cultural understanding, creative experimentation and care for the more-than-human world. From 2011-16, Kirsten was Head Curator, People and the Environment, at the National Museum of Australia (, and from 2004-11, Senior Curator and then Content Director for the Museum’s gallery development program. Her curatorial work encompasses more than thirty exhibitions, digital platforms and interpretive programs exploring diverse aspects of Australian environmental history. Kirsten holds a PhD in visual and cultural anthropology from New York University and in 2018 will complete an MA in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London. Her publications include the co-edited/authored volumes Curating the Future: Museums, Communities and Climate Change (2017, Routledge) and Landmarks: A History of Australia in 33 Places (2013, NMA Press). Kirsten is a member of the Australia-Pacific Observatory of Humanities for the Environment ( at the Sydney Environment Institute and was a 2015–16 Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich, Germany.

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