Posted by: henrymcghie | May 16, 2017

What do visitors to Manchester Museum think about climate change?

Last year, we held a series of exhibitions called Climate Control. As part of this, we had a number of simple interactives that asked visitors to add plastic tokens to large jars. The jars were marked with labels containing statements about climate change; visitors were asked ‘what do you think?’. Jars were set out in pairs, with some pairs marked with labels with opposing statements (e.g. ‘I care about nature’ and ‘I don’t care about nature’ were located next to one another). Visitors were completely free to vote as they wanted; the voting jars were in a large ‘booth’ so that people could vote without others seeing how they had voted, to try to remove any peer group pressure effect. The results were fascinating. Numbers can’t be taken to represent a number of ‘votes’ with one per person, as some people (although possibly not many) added more than one token to jars. Tokens were counted approximately once a fortnight.

Jars

The highest numbers of votes were (in order) for the statements ‘I care about nature’, ‘I care that the climate is changing’, ‘things I do have an effect on the world’ and ‘I will be affected by climate change’

The lowest numbers of votes were (in order) for the statements ‘I don’t care about nature’, ‘I won’t be affected by climate change’, ‘I don’t care that the climate is changing’ and ‘things I do don’t have an effect on the world’.

Average number of tokens Total number of tokens
‘I care that the climate is changing’ 141 6921
‘I don’t care that the climate is changing’ 51 2483
‘I will be affected by climate change’ 94 4621
‘I won’t be affected by climate change’ 41 2017
‘I care about nature’ 189 9288
‘I don’t care about nature’ 40 1973
‘Things I do have an effect on the world’ 115 5645
‘Things I do don’t have an effect on the world’ 51 2492
‘If I knew what to do about climate change I’d do more of it’ 80 3944
‘I don’t think what I do has much effect but it’s important to try’ 57 2794

 

Another way to look at this is to look at the ratio of votes for each pair of opposing statements. Nearly three times (2.7) as many votes were cast for the statement ‘I care that the climate is changing’ than the statement ‘I don’t care that the climate is changing’. Twice as many (2.29) votes were cast for the statement ‘I will be affected by climate change’ as the statement ‘I won’t be affected by climate change’. Nearly five times (4.7) as many votes were cast for the statement ‘I care about nature’ compared with the statement ‘I don’t care about nature’. More than twice the number of votes were cast for the statement ‘things I do have an effect on the world’ as compared with ‘things I do don’t have an effect on the world’.

Overall, this gives us a broad picture of what people think about climate change and what they can do about it. It showed that we can use the Museum not just as a place where curators exhibit their work and ideas, but that we can use the Museum as a place where people are encouraged to express their own ideas, and to share their views with one another. What do you think?

Special thanks to Laura Bennett and Catherine Tyldesley who did all the counting of the tokens.

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