International Symposium on Climate Change and Museums: Programme

Announcing the Programme for International Symposium on Climate Change and Museums, Manchester, 11–13 April


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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