Posted by: henrymcghie | October 30, 2017

From Outputs to Outcomes – Are You Making the Shift?

Source: From Outputs to Outcomes – Are You Making the Shift?

Source: Museums & Sustainable Communities – Six Things Our Working Group Learned

Posted by: henrymcghie | October 23, 2017

Arthur Cains 50+ year old collection of Cepaea nemoralis

Source: Arthur Cains 50+ year old collection of Cepaea nemoralis


We are organising a conference, to be held in Manchester from 11-13 April 2018, in conjunction with Prof. Walter Leal of Manchester Metropolitan University. This follows on from a conference we held in Manchester in February on climate change communication. The conference focuses on ‘Climate Change and Museums: critical approaches to engagement and management’. We are inviting submissions for presentations (talks, workshops and exhibition stands).

Anthropogenic climate change is one of the defining issues of our time. Extending far beyond the scientific sphere, climate change influences, and is influenced by, politics, economics, culture and the wider environment. Museums and other cultural institutions can play a crucial role in engaging and empowering people and communities, both locally and globally, as we face the climate challenge. The importance of this role is recognized in the Paris Agreement of 2015 and in a raft of local and national policies and strategies. Museums can play an important role in engaging people with climate change, going far beyond merely presenting information, but inspiring, empowering and enabling people to meet the climate challenge.

This conference is aimed at those working in, or concerned with, museums and climate change. It aims to provide and encourage critical perspectives upon a range of museum activities, in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation, collections management and development, climate change communication, public and civic engagement. It also aims to showcase projects and approaches that have explored these topics, across all scales, from the hyper-local to the global.

The conference aims to catalyse and enable cross-sectoral action, to support the development of partnerships, and generally to provide support to those working to meet the climate challenge through museums.

The Symposium will explore the following interconnected themes:

1. The role that museums have to play in enabling climate action and adaptation.

2. Interpreting and exhibiting climate change to promote engagement: information, inspiration, action.

3. Collecting climate change and its impacts.

4. Collections management and climate change: reducing impacts for positive environmental outcomes.

5. The future of museums and museum practice in a changing climate.

6. Partnerships between museums and others towards climate change action

The Call for Papers is now open. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 30th October 2017.

Further details can be found at: call for papers


I had a fantastic experience last week, talking at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 5th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment, in Bonn, last Monday. The presentation was done jointly with Jonny Sadler of Manchester Climate Change Agency. The talk was about ‘Cities and Museums Fostering Climate Change Education and Empowerment’. I focussed on the great potential that museums offer: they reach large numbers of people, who come with a curiosity about the world and their place in it; their collections span human and environmental history, and they can promote critical thinking and reflection.


Me, Adriana Valenzuela Jimenez (UNFCCC) and Jonny Sadler (Manchester Climate Change Agency) at the World Conference Centre in Bonn

I wanted to emphasise that museums can choose to do things differently, and use their venues, exhibitions and events as sites for people to express what matters to them, find out what matters to other people and to promote collective action. I spoke about our Climate Control exhibition, which we held in 2016, as an example of how museums can focus on inspiration and empowerment rather than simply conveying information (which can just be depressing). With a starting point that ‘we can’t change the past but we can change our future’, we provided lots of opportunities for people to take part, described in earlier posts. Reaching nearly 100,000 visitors in our months, and with 73% of people telling us, and one another, that they care that the climate is changing, and giving people lots of opportunities to find out what actions they could take towards climate action, I hope we managed to demonstrate that civic institutions such as museums can play a really important role in encouraging and empowering people that they can do something about climate change, if only on a personal level. By creating opportunities that bring exhibitions, policy/strategy, and the latest research together, we hope that this is how we can truly play a role in society.

5th dialogueParticipants in the 5th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment


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.


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.

Posted by: henrymcghie | May 6, 2017

Vivarium visits

Source: Vivarium visits

Posted by: henrymcghie | May 6, 2017

The curious case of the ‘extinct’ thylacine…

Source: The curious case of the ‘extinct’ thylacine…

Posted by: henrymcghie | April 27, 2017

Museums and the climate challenge

Hello this is just a quick update on some of the things I/we’ve been doing in Manchester. It’s been quite a whirlwind couple of months, so I’ll use that as an excuse for not updating this blog more regularly. In February I organised a conference on climate change communication, along with Walter Leal of Manchester Metropolitan University and Hamburg University. We had 100 delegates from 25 countries, exploring challenges and best practice in not just communication the information about climate change, but focussing on how we can inspire action and confidence. I did a talk based on the experience of Climate Control (2016) and Living Worlds (2011). The short version is that we know information on climate change just isn’t enough to inspire and encourage action. In fact, the depressing imagery of polar bears and graphs showing steep curves up or down has been shown to be WORSE THAN DOING NOTHING. Excuse the SCARY CAPITALS, but I think it’s really important to emphasise this point. The media loves a scary image, but these are not the kind of thing that will support and enable action. I’ll have a lot more to say on this subject. In our Climate Control exhibition, we focussed on combining information on climate change- what it is, what causes it, its impacts- with lots and lots and lots of opportunities for people to get hands-on, express themselves, share their ideas, make a new Manchester out of Lego, and lots more besides.

In February, I was very privileged to spend a week with a fantastic group of people as Creative Climate Leaders, at the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth in Wales. We explored what matters most to us, what we and our organisations have to offer in terms of meeting the climate challenge.


visitors added black stickers to the Climate Control exhibition to represent their carbon footprint- the idea was around collective impact

Source: Journeys across the sea and beyond: talking about current issues at Manchester Museum

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