Museums to Turn Visitors into Environmental Activists

August 12 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Nick Merriman, chief executive of the Horniman Museum & Garden in South London (pictured), has penned an article for Artnet on what he thinks the role of museums should be in tackling the environmental crisis. The piece makes quite clear which camp Merriman might sit in during the recent 'What is a Museum' debate.

In his own words:

Museums are well practiced in developing exhibitions, events, and activities to engage audiences with key issues. The work of artists, in particular, brings the emotional perspective which psychological research shows is needed to prompt action. An acceleration in this work is necessary given the urgency of the climate and ecological breakdown.


No doubt we all have our own perspectives on what is likely to prompt change in the way we treat our shared environment. Yet, I can't say that notions of 'prompt[ing] action' and 'acceleration' have ever come to me whilst admiring exhibitions of landscapes by the likes of Gainsborough, Turner and Towne etc. They tend to have the opposite effect.

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