Dive in: raising awareness of ocean sustainability - Museums Association

Dive in: raising awareness of ocean sustainability

A case study from the University of St Andrews
Climate Crisis
Claire Robinson
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Edward Broughton © The University of St Andrews

Dive in: Protecting our Ocean is an interdisciplinary collaboration between museums, marine scientists and behavioural change experts that takes visitors under the sea to explore the importance of the ocean for life on Earth, the threats that it faces and the changes we can make to address these challenges.

It draws together the expertise from the museums of the University of St Andrews, environmental psychology and behavioural change experts, museum interpretation and evaluation specialists, marine scientists from the university’s Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI), and the People Ocean Planet initiative from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS).

The project will result in an immersive exhibition, digital content and programme of events at the university’s Wardlaw Museum from autumn 2021.

The Dive In team seeks to build visitors’ understanding of the importance of the ocean by combining the world-leading research of marine experts at the SOI with the university’s extensive natural history collections to build an emotional connection through an immersive, experiential exhibition.

Encouraging action

Dive In will encourage audiences to take action to protect the marine environment, promoting solutions that demonstrate that everyone can contribute to ocean sustainability. Our individual actions not only accumulate to have significant collective impact but can contribute to wider systemic change to tackle the global crisis we now face.

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To maximise the impact of Dive In on audience behaviour, and to measure this impact, the team are working with the consultants Steve Slack and Adam Corner to develop interpretive and evaluation frameworks.

We are creating powerful, impactful interpretation for our audiences that will foster a positive and constructive dialogue between science and the public, with museums and collections acting as a conduit for behavioural change.

Informed by audience consultation and audience segmentation models, the team has developed a suite of “behavioural asks” or actions to promote greater relevance and inclusivity for our different audience groups, from visitors seeking to learn more about climate change to those who are actively involved in initiatives to address the global crisis.

We will measure the effectiveness of our approaches in stimulating behavioural change through evaluation and the preparation of a case study review.

Legacy

The Dive In project will have an important and enduring legacy for the museums of the University of St Andrews. It will bring new relevance and impact to the university’s natural history collections and demonstrate the significance, distinctiveness and power of collections to museums and their audiences.

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It will provide the university museums with a greater understanding of how exhibitions and programmes can affect audience behaviour, enabling us to strengthen impact in subsequent programmes. Learning from the project will be shared for the benefit of the wider museum and marine science sectors.

Dive In is part of the university’s response to the UN climate change conference Cop26 and it has received funding from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Claire Robinson is the collections and exhibitions curator for museums at the University of St Andrews

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