The Science Museum Group is the custodian of the nation’s pre-eminent collections in the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine, transport and media. Since 2016, climate change has been identified as a priority within our Collections Development Policy; our current policy states: ‘The study of, and response to, environmental change will be a major focus for collecting, including global heating, sea level rise and pollution.’
This collecting agenda is part of the Science Museum Group’s broader strategic focus on climate change and sustainability. We announced our programme of climate action at the launch of the UK Year of Climate Action associated with COP26 at the Science Museum in February 2020, and in April 2021 we set our own net zero emissions target for 2033.
We aspire to lead public engagement in the UK on the science of climate change and the technologies that will help human societies both mitigate and adapt to its impacts. This builds upon a strong record of climate-related programming over the last decade, particularly at the Science Museum, with projects including: galleries and temporary exhibitions (e.g. Our Future Planet, 2021; Atmosphere, 2010; Unlocking Lovelock, 2014), art interventions (e.g. Cockroach Tour, 2010; the Rubbish Collection, 2014), live and online events, schools outreach and educational resources.
Motivation for being involved in the scheme
Collecting is a core activity for the Science Museum; as well as the preservation of our scientific and technological heritage, it enables effective public engagement through our cultural programme. At present, certain aspects of climate change have moderate representation within our collections, e.g.: earth science observation and monitoring; technologies for mitigating carbon emissions across energy and transport sectors; and public responses to climate change, including activism and protest. Much less well represented, however, are the risks of climate change to human societies, and the adaptive strategies and technologies for building climate resilience. It is particularly significant that despite our status as the UK’s national science and technology museum, we have few artefacts reflecting current and future climate impacts that will affect UK citizens. We are interested in hosting an embedded researcher to help us address this.
Enhancing our holdings in this area will help us to share compelling and relevant stories around climate impacts and resilience within our public programming, both in the short term and into the future. Our collections are an important resource for future audiences and researchers.
Ideas for research topics or knowledge brokering activities
We are interested in working with an embedded researcher to help us deliver against the strategic focus upon climate change and sustainability identified in our current Collections Development Policy. In particular, we anticipate they might help us enhance the representation within our collection of climate impacts that will affect the UK, and the technologies and measures underpinning the UK’s climate resilience and adaptation strategies.
Specifically, this could involve:
Researching potential artefacts, case studies and institutions relevant to this theme
Using their networks to connect the Science Museum with relevant research and industry communities, and advocating for the museum at sector conferences and national / international platforms
Working alongside curators to support the acquisition process, such as by writing and presenting acquisition cases for approval, and ensuring objects are appropriately catalogued and documented
Producing content for engaging the public and research communities with objects acquired through these activities – for example, blogs for the museum website or articles for the Science Museum Group Journal.
We would be particularly interested in working with a researcher who might help us identify projects, initiatives and artefacts which not only respond to our collecting priority around climate change and sustainability, but also our ‘Open For All’ agenda. An important strand of this work aims to achieve more representative displays in the museum, for example by reflecting the perspectives of people from diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, and people’s differing experiences relating to gender, sexuality and disability.
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