We Are Museums
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We Are Museums

‘Towards Regenerative Cultures for Museums’ by Bridget McKenzie, Climate Museum UK

This is a summary of Bridget McKenzie’s speech at ‘Museums Facing Extinction’ Conference on November 16th 2020.

Usually, a museum is considered a warehouse where collections are made available in one space. Now, gradually, according to Bridget McKenzie — founding director of Climate Museum UK, it is beginning to evolve into active communities that require the participation of other people. Climate Museum UK is a distributed, mobile and digital museum stirring and collecting responses to the question of climate and ecological emergencies.

Work Towards Regenerative Culture

To move on to the concept of regenerative culture, we need to understand that it is the opposite of extractive culture. It is ecocentric, which means that instead of humans being at the centre, controlling and extracting from nature, humans exist as a part of nature.

A regenerative economy is a function of this culture, and perhaps if we transition to regenerative economic systems, we might experience a change in the culture. When we begin thinking regeneratively, we begin to grow and restore — taking just enough and cutting down waste. Valerie Brown says, “we need to consume nature’s flows while conserving stocks, increase society’s stocks and limit the flow of material and energy” as elements of a regenerative culture.

We have heard about the importance of sustainable development goals when setting our work intentions. However, it can be argued that you need to frame the SDGs to make the Biosphere or Ecosphere goals fundamental. We need to address the resources and the climate’s essential stability on the planet for the other goals to happen.

Become Possitopian

The idea of being Possitopian -which means not being Utopian or Dystopian- taps into future literacy. It encourages people to expand the cones of their possible futures and imagine as many realities as possible. This is important for us to bring ourselves into these conversations to avoid getting fixated on doom or gloom while still exploring the full range of possibilities.

When it comes to getting the work done, we believe, like Bridget, that a lot more than just making statements needs to be done. Declarations need to be followed up with action to stop harm, deeply adapt to the crisis, and carry out repairs by growing and restoring nature and friendships.

“Regenerative museums don’t reduce the task to decarbonization, they aim to end ecocide, to increase well-being, and to seek justice.” Bridget McKenzie

These museums aim to weave possible paths to the future, developing eco-capacities in people. You can describe future literacy as an eco capacity as it is geared to helping people see that we are all a part of nature.

A practical example

One project that applies to adopting a regenerative culture is the creation of a wild museum in the Timber Festival, held in the National Forest in the UK. This area of England was covered with coal mines and landfill but is now being regenerated as the National Forest. Children will be learning different methods of collecting, gathering, and cherishing our material and biological world.

This is a clear example of activation, where ideas are shared as a team to help design something hopeful, playful, and not too dark.

The challenges of creatively redesigning our consumption and production systems, material culture, economic systems, and lifestyles offer so many opportunities for regenerative cultural design and transformative innovation. When creating multiple opportunities for symbiosis and synergy, we must cooperatively integrate the mosaics of different eco-social systems that have been redesigned by us, like nature.

At the end of her talk, Bridget’s provocation to the museum field was: ‘Take a moment and think about what role you have decided to play. How far in your organization will you go to face extinction in a bid to slow it down?’

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Diane Drubay

Diane Drubay

Founder of @wearemuseums. Co-founder of @alterhen. Arts & Culture for the Tezos ecosystem. Visual artist nudging for nature awareness.

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