By Diane Erceg
How might museums reframe themes and stories to bring the Anthropocene into focus? How might we create relational museums that foster collaborative forms of communication? How might we design exhibits that invite museum visitors to understand themselves in new ways in relation to material and social worlds? These were some of the questions we pondered as we gathered last week for ‘The Anthropocene in Museums’ workshop at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
Museum scholars, curators and other practitioners came from as near and as far as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States to participate in the two-day workshop. While some participants generously shared their experiences and lessons learned from working with and in the Anthropocene, others bravely invited us to preview their works in progress. Our discussions revealed many shared Anthropocene challenges including how to bring together diverse forms of knowledge in our exhibits while balancing messages of urgency and hope, forging human connections and managing institutional and practical limits.
A tour of ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’, a special exhibition created by the Deutsches Museum and Rachel Carson Center, informed and inspired our discussions. As did Jenny Newell’s public lecture, ‘Activism, Art and Atolls: Communicating the Oceanic Anthropocene’.
By exploring and experimenting together, we furthered our goal to build a community of museums from which we can all draw ideas and inspiration for transforming museums in this new period of the Earth’s history. Because, as one workshop participant put it, ‘we need safe spaces for dangerous ideas’.