• Colin Sterling

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action

Over the past fifteen months the New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design project has explored innovative approaches to heritage interpretation through interviews, sector-facing workshops and collaborative product development in the emerging field of immersive and experiential design. Through this research, a core line of enquiry has emerged around the extent to which ‘immersive experiences’ (broadly defined) might contribute towards critical heritage thinking and practice. While museums and heritage sites have been quick to embrace the immersive turn to enhance audience engagement and promote new revenue streams, the broader critical potential of VR, AR and related fields has only begun to receive scholarly attention.

The design of immersive experiences may help to explore these questions by surfacing marginalised historical narratives, or by fostering new ways of working, including varied forms of co-curation and co-production. Moreover, developing new approaches to immersive design can provide a useful nodal point through which to examine the larger issues that bear upon and extend outwards from heritage. In particular, one of the central concerns shaping innovative work in immersive and experiential design relates to the climate crisis and intersecting issues of sustainability, inequality and climate justice. How can museums communicate the scale and urgency of ecological breakdown to inspire meaningful climate action? To what extent might new heritage and museum experiences bridge the divide between nature and culture? How can new technologies and interpretive approaches foster environmental awareness and climate empowerment, and what are the ethical and practical challenges of developing sustainable work in this field?

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action aims to address these questions through an international design competition and exhibition, to be held at the Glasgow Science Centre in the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26). The design competition specifically aims to stimulate creative thinking across and between different stakeholders involved in the production of museum experiences, from architects and designers to curators and activists. Eight shortlisted teams will be invited to develop their proposals for display at the Glasgow Science Centre.

Exhibition venue: Glasgow Science Centre

As the world confronts a global pandemic that is impacting on all aspects of social, cultural and economic life, many of the certainties we may have had about the future seem less concrete. While thousands of museums around the world are currently closed, new forms of engagement and experimentation have emerged to rethink the relationship between museums and society. Alongside a profound sense of loss and insecurity, there is hope: hope that the multitude of ways in which communities globally have responded to COVID-19 might inspire new forms of radical action to address the climate and ecological emergency. In this moment, it is particularly important to consider the unique capacities of museums to shape more just and sustainable futures.

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action asks designers, architects, academics, artists, poets, philosophers, museum professionals and the public at large to radically (re)imagine and (re)design the museum as an institution, to help bring about more equitable and sustainable futures in the climate change era. The competition aims to explore how museums can help society transform to a low carbon future, adapt to the impacts of climate change, and safeguard ecosystems.

Entries will be judged by an international panel of museum, architecture and design, climate change, heritage and sustainability experts. The exhibition will be accompanied by talks, workshops and other activities encouraging debate around the future role of museums in times of rapid environmental change.

This competition has been developed as a joint initiative bringing together the New Trajectories in Curatorial Experience Design project with the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Heritage Priority Area, led by Professor Rodney Harrison (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Henry McGhie (Curating Tomorrow), and Emma Woodham (Glasgow Science Centre). It launched on the 18th May 2020, for International Museum Day.

Register your interest by 31st July 2020 to submit by the final deadline of 15th September 2020.

Further information is available on the competition website: 


Website design and campaign visuals by Polytechnic

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