A stuffed elephant that comes to life, a network of indigenous micro-museums and a suggestion to confer museum status on forests are among the eight winners of an international competition to reimagine the role museums can play in tackling climate change.
The successful projects include entries from UK institutions such as the Dundee Museum of Transport and Great North Museum: Hancock, as well as various collaborations within the UK and internationally.
Each winning entry in the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action competition will receive £2,500 to develop its ideas into an exhibit. These will be included in an exhibition at the Glasgow Science Centre in the run-up to the United Nations’ COP26 climate change conference, which will be held in the city next year.
Dundee Museum of Transport’s project will examine how a traditional museum could evolve to tackle the challenge of sustainable travel, while the Great North Museum: Hancock’s entry proposes using museum collections to enable people to curate their own climate stories and networks.
Another winning project from the UK is the Museum of Open Windows, which suggests repurposing the global museum infrastructure to support collaboration and citizen research on climate action.
The international winners include Existances, a Brazilian collaboration that imagines a network of museums embedded in indigenous communities to illustrate "the power of collective knowledge in the fight against climate change".
Natural Future Museums, a joint Brazilian-UK winning project, explores the idea of giving museum status to indigenous lands in places such as forests, that are critical to climate action.
Elephant in the Room, a “fantastical story” from a US-based team in which a stuffed elephant comes to life and forces museums and society to confront their role in climate change, is also among the successful entries.
The competition was launched in May, asking for entries exploring new ways in which museums might help create sustainable futures. It was developed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and judged by a panel of international experts in museums and heritage, architecture and design, climate change and sustainability. It received 264 submissions from 48 countries.
Rodney Harrison, the professor of heritage studies at University College London’s Institute of Archaeology who led the initiative, said: “The response to the competition shows how significantly the need to transform our institutions for climate action is viewed by the public, and the hopes for museums to participate in a range of different ways in this transformation. We are excited to begin working with the competition winners and Glasgow Science Centre to develop our exhibition in advance of COP26 next year.”
Emma Woodham, the climate change programme manager at Glasgow Science Centre, said the exhibition would make an important contribution to the centre’s climate change programme, which seeks to “inform, inspire and empower people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with COP26, and take action on climate change in their own lives”.