Thumbs up for climate change exhibition

By: Catherine Cooper, Category: Science, Date: 09 Dec 2009

The Australian Museum’s recent exhibition Climate change: our future, your choice has received an award from Museums and Galleries NSW.

Close up of coral

Close up of coral
Carl Bento © Australian Museum

Story by Catherine Cooper, Exhibition Project Coordinator

Last month, the Australian Museum received a ‘highly commended’ award for its exhibition Climate change: our future, our choice. We were thrilled to receive the award from Museums and Galleries NSW, as the exhibition was on such a tricky and yet crucial topic. Elements such as the exhibition’s concept, curatorship, design, marketing and collaborative partnerships all impressed the judges.

One of the big challenges we faced was presenting the subject of climate change in a scientifically accurate but fun and engaging way. We wanted to present what many might say is ‘the grim truth’ yet leave visitors not totally gloomy but motivated to make a difference.

We had much input and advice from our scientists, who gamely dissolved pieces of coral skeleton in acidic sea water for the displays, or helped us to recreate an accurate picture of the Great Barrier Reef changing from 2009 to 2020. We wrote the evening news for 2050 and recorded our scientists lamenting over the sulphur that had been pumped into the sky to cool the planet, or awarding Nobel Prizes to colleagues who had developed cheap solar panels. Many other museum staff volunteered to take on new roles as journalists, protestors or politicians in 2050 as we helped our visitors to imagine the future in concrete ways.

We also collaborated with the University of Sydney’s Institute of Integrated Sustainability Analysis to help visitors to understand how and where our carbon footprints come from. We chose some everyday objects such as a meal out or a new shirt, and traced back the emissions produced in manufacturing them. Mapping experts from the Museum’s Collections Informatics Unit then translated the vast amount of data into maps showing how the emissions spread across Australia.

The end result was an exhibition that was informative and interactive. It was also beautifully designed and made from sustainable materials. We are glad the judges shared our view that it did the job well!


Parrys Raines - 6.02 PM, 07 February 2010

Well done Catherine!  I loved the exhibition as the facts were provided in a way they were easily understood. I particularly loved the interactive table and dancing to see the disco ball light up when I used my energy. I also liked the way the exhibition helped us to understand about our carbon footprints. Once people understand, they then start to care and then they start to act. I am sure your exhibition has inspired many people to consider making positive changes in thier everyday lives. Congratulations on the award it is well deserved!

Lynda Kelly - 12.12 PM, 10 December 2009

Good stuff Catherine! Our research found that visitors generally enjoyed the exhibition, especially teenagers. Here's some of what they said that they will do about climate change.

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