How can museums address climate change?

Simon Stephens, 13.11.2013
Use collections to engage the public, says McGhie
Museums could do more to use their natural history displays to engage audiences with environmental sustainability issues, according to a session called Dead Zoos held yesterday at the Museums Association conference in Liverpool. 

Henry McGhie, the head of collections and curator of zoology at Manchester Museum, outlined some of the ways that museums could use their collections to address green issues. 

“Nature means different things to different people and if you don't understand people's different viewpoints you are not going to get far with the conversation,” McGhie said. “And it is important to be clear about what you want to achieve and what messages are going to help achieve this.” 

McGhie warned against focusing on areas such as extinct animals rather than providing information on what people can do to prevent extinction. “It is most effective to focus on what people can do rather than the things they can't do anything about,” he said. 

Clare Brown, the chairwoman of the Natural Science Collections Association and natural sciences curator at Leeds Museums, outlined why museums needs specialist curators and what they can contribute. This included the ability to communicate complex scientific ideas, engage the public and to understand the wider scientific community. 

And Darren Mann, the head of life science collections at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, outlined how the role of the curator has changed over the past 20 years and why engaging the public is now such an important part of their work 

“We do need specialist curators, otherwise we will lose collections,” Mann said. “However, things have changed, we can't just hide way in our offices, we need to engage with the public.”

Comments