Written by George Peckham, ITP Assistant

Climate Beacons: Developing lasting public engagement with climate change

Tuesday, 9 November 2021
Rachel Rowley, Head of Resources, Museums Galleries Scotland
Lewis Coenen-Rowe, culture/SHIFT officer, Creative Carbon Scotland
Sadie Young, Director, Timespan
Victoria Robb, Education Manager, National Mining Museum Scotland

In this session we were introduced to the Climate Beacons project, which has been developed to coincide with the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

Climate Beacons for COP26 is a Scotland-wide collaborative project which pairs organisations in the arts, culture, heritage, climate science, policy, the public sector, and civil society to develop lasting public engagement with climate change. There are seven climate beacons scattered across Scotland and in this session we heard from representatives from some of the beacons to discuss their work.

Timespan work as part of the Caithness and East Sutherland climate beacon. Their project as part of this collaboration, THE LAND FOR THOSE THAT WORK IT, focusses on issues of land justice, developmental issues for the local region, and climate colonialism. The population of this area of Scotland is remote and rural and the primary industries to fuel to local economy, such as agriculture, fishing, and renewable energy production, are under threat the effects of climate change. You can read more about Timespan’s work in this project here: https://timespan.org.uk/programme/events/the-land-for-those-that-work-it/

The National Mining Museum Scotland work as part of the Midlothian climate beacon in collaboration with the British Geological Survey. Their work focusses on the carbon cycle and Scotland’s history and legacy with fossil fuels, particularly coal. Their projects embrace Scotland’s history with coal and fossil fuels and use that energy to look towards a future of decarbonisation. One project they mentioned in the session was the STEM Climate Change Workshop. This workshop is aimed towards primary school children teaches the science behind climate change with fun challenges such as creating ideas for Scotland’s first net zero town. Find out more about their other projects here: https://nationalminingmuseum.com/midlothian-climate-beacon/

Climate Beacons for COP26 is running until July 2022. You can read about the work of all seven Climate Beacons by visiting their website: https://www.creativecarbonscotland.com/project/climate-beacons-for-cop26/

Reimagining museums for climate action

Tuesday 9 November
Rodney Harrison, Professor of Heritage Studies, University College London
Henry McGhie, Founder, Curating Tomorrow
Walter Francisco Figueiredo Loewande, Adjunct Professor of History, Universidade Federal de Alfenas
Miranda Massie, Director, Climate Museum, New York
João Francisco Vitório Rodrigues, Vice Director, Museum of Memory and Heritage, Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Brazil
Emma Woodham, Climate Change Programme Manager, Glasgow Science Centre
Colin Sterling, Assistant Professor of Memory and Museums, University of Amsterdam.

Museums have a vital role to play in addressing challenges of the climate emergency. For many years, museums and other cultural institutions have been grappling with their climate responsibilities. With COP26 taking place in Scotland, museums across the UK have been assessing the role of the museum sector in addressing the climate emergency. What interventions can museums make to have a positive contribution? And how can museums learn from other sectors to reduce their own environmental impact while mobilising communities to take action?

In this session we heard from different voices who are working collaboratively in the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action project, who have been presenting their recent work as part of COP26.

In the build up to COP26, Glasgow Science Centre and Reimagining Museums for Climate Action announced an international design competition which asked for proposals which explore different ways that museums might address the climate emergency. 250 submissions were received from around the world and 8 were selected for an exhibition to be displayed at the Glasgow Science Centre during COP26. The exhibition opened in Glasgow in June, but you can view the eight selections on the projects website here: https://www.museumsforclimateaction.org/reimagine/exhibits

During the session we had the chance to hear from one of the project leads from one of the proposals selected for the exhibition. Walter Francisco Figueiredo Loewande, Adjunct Professor of History, Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Brazil, spoke about his project The Existences Museum. This project imagines the museum as a small, temporary structure, which works by spreading knowledge and support to small communities in a local region. We were shown concept designs for a constantly moving museum, made of recycled material and would be a place where knowledge is exchanged rather than objects being stored. You can view the whole project here: https://www.museumsforclimateaction.org/reimagine/exhibits/existances

As part of the session, the speakers encouraged attendees to look at the book and toolkit developed by Reimagining Museums for Climate Action. There is a toolkit with framework and concepts to empower museums in addressing the climate crisis. The book is a collection of essays and conversations to inspire further climate action within and beyond the museum field. Both resources are free to access and links can be found below:

Toolkit: https://www.museumsforclimateaction.org/mobilise/toolkit

Book: https://www.museumsforclimateaction.org/mobilise/book