The Anthropocene Museum
November 11, 2020 \ Arts & Culture
by Mark Johnston
Page\Park's submission for the Reimagining Museums for Climate Action competition in 2020
If the purpose of a Museum is to educate, showcase, and for humankind to contemplate its place on this planet, then there is no institution better suited to changing the way we think about Climate Change.
The traditional museum grew from collections and showcases of the weird and wonderful, but in this Anthropocene epoch where humans dominate the planet, with unlimited information at our fingertips, what place is there for a cabinet of curiosities?
A new kind of Museum is required, to not only educate, but inspire action. The future museum needs to disrupt our very way of life; casting a net around the globe and shining an intrusive spotlight on our consumption of Earth’s natural resources. We need a new museum that makes it impossible to ignore the damage we are doing to our planet, before we cause a modern-era mass extinction.
In 1947, the Bureau of Atomic Scientists unveiled the ‘Doomsday Clock’; an attempt to represent the likelihood of man-made global catastrophe, from climate change to nuclear disaster. However, in today’s modern culture of distraction, misinformation, and hypernormalisation, the clock is just another headline – and is far too easy to ignore.
Today, the Doomsday Clock stands at 100 seconds to midnight.
In this thought experiment, the traditional Museum has evolved into The Anthropocene Museum.
It has become something very different to our current understanding of what a Museum is. It is not hidden in some stoic classical building in a capital city – instead, it is a multi-national, omni-present, dynamic installation, which acts as a physical embodiment of climate change. It is a real-time indicator of the natural disasters, extinctions, and devastating impact that we as a species are inflicting on our home.
Just as the Doomsday clock metaphorically ticks towards Earth’s demise, the Anthropocene Museum will physically react to climate action we collectively take, positive or negative.
Imagine one-hundred of the most famous places on the planet; city squares, public parks, beaches, historic monuments. Now imagine each one of these has a colossal illuminated globe poised above it. Inside each globe is a ‘museum’; a series of experiential showcases indicating the impact of humankind on the health of our planet. Each of these globes is a node of the Anthropocene Museum’s global network.
As human action continues to destroy the planet, these inflatable globes start to deflate, and their internal lights dim. As they deflate they drop to the ground, they become inaccessible, gradually invading the city around them, blocking pathways, covering landmarks, bringing darkness, and disrupting day-to-day life. No longer is climate change a problem for future generations, but it has an impact that we can see and feel in the present. With positive action – reduction of carbon emissions, carbon offsetting, use of renewable energy – the globes will begin to re-inflate, rise and illuminate.
“The Anthropocene Museum doesn’t celebrate Humankind’s exploration, its battles or pillaging. It is a warning, a stark reminder of the inevitable extinction of our species without positive action.”