Natural Futures Museum 2 credit Denilson Baniwa

Reimagining Museums for Climate Action

What would it take for museums to become catalysts for radical climate action?

Museums come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be found in every country of the world, reaching hundreds of millions – possibly billions – of people each year through exhibitions, educational programmes and online activities. They also support research and debate across a wide range of subjects, from local history to space exploration. They are so much a part of society that we rarely stop to ask why they function the way they do, and how they might change to meet local, regional and global needs in the present and future.

In the run up to COP26, an international design competition asked for proposals exploring different ways in which museums might be reimagined to address the climate emergency. This exhibition presents eight proposals from the 250 submissions received from all around the world. Through films, creative designs, models, and images, the exhibits ask us to consider:

  • What if museums became centres for community-led climate research and action?
  • What if museums were small places that supported communities in addressing local climate challenges and actions?
  • What if indigenous lands were thought of as a kind of museum for climate action?
  • What if museum buildings themselves contributed to real climate action, through their material fabric?
  • How can museums support the move to climate-friendly technology and lifestyles?
  • What if museums and society were forced to confront their role in climate change?
  • How can people curate their own climate information, to support climate action?
  • What if people gathered their own collections and information to support dialogue and climate action?

Distributed across the ‘Powering the Future’ gallery you will find new ideas about the things museums collect, the stories they tell, the materials they are built of and the communities they serve. Some of these ideas are fantastical, others are already being implemented. The global scope of the proposals – from Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil, the United States and the UK – shows that museums have an important role to play in addressing climate change at an international level, tailored to their local context.

For further information see the exhibition website at


Reimagining Museums for Climate Action is co-curated by Rodney Harrison (UCL Institute of Archaeology), Colin Sterling (University of Amsterdam) and Henry McGhie (Curating Tomorrow).

It is part of a larger project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The project aims to support radical climate action in and with museums before, during and after COP26.


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