Minds-On, Hands-On

MANILA, Philippines - While most museums around the world mount exhibitions on climate change to generate awareness and inspire action to protect the environment, some seem to have been doing it the wrong way.

For instance, a museum in Norway uses scare tactics to educate people about climate change - complete with nuclear meltdown warnings and scary red lights to boot. Ameline Coulumbier, consultant and head of Strategy Department of Lordculture, said she is bothered that this tact could make things worse.

"What bothered me in the museum in Norway was that it has a very extreme portrayal of a nuclear meltdown, showing the aftermath of what happened. Museums have a responsibility to promote education, it's a priority issue but it's also important to address correctly the goals you have in putting up a museum," points out Coulumbier, one of the speakers during the 2nd Asian Children's Museum Conference organized by the Museo Pambata, at the Manila Hotel.

Lordculture is part of the international network Lord Cultural Resources which provides consulting services for the culture sector in France and other countries. It particularly assists in developing museum projects for organizations. Recently, it won a bid to develop the exhibitions of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). This has led them to create "Forward", a project that explains the policy and market failures around climate change exhibitions.

In setting up a museum, Coulumbier says one should be able to address these factors: Who is your target market. What is the message that you want to convey and how to do it.

"If there is one thing they need to have in mind when they leave the exhibition, what is that? Often people want to say too much in an exhibition so when visitors leave, they can't even remember anything," she notes.

Coulumbier says a good museum should be one that engages the individual, the consumer, and the citizen. It should be a minds-on and hands-on exhibition.

"Good exhibitions are those you can relate to, you can make a link between what is being said and your life so that you can apply it and engage more. Interactivity doesn't mean only multimedia. It can be through an educator. It's not top-down information, it's not the knowledge that they put down to you. It's what we call the minds-on and hands-on exhibition where you use almost all senses, and your mind to form an opinion," explains Coulumbier. She says solving a puzzle, games, and activities in the museum are some of the important features that further enhance the museum-going experience.


She also recommends having more tour guides and less interactive exhibits because she feels children learn more and remember more if someone explains it to them. Teachers that accompany children to museums during field trips must also be oriented before the trip. In this way, they can explain the features in the museum to them during the tour for better understanding and can also reinforce it with lessons in the classroom.

She says an itinerary of what they can do in the museum as well as activities like answering a questionnaire or investigation games would make the children more involved, engaged and productive during the tour.
"In this way, they are not just receiving information but also active in looking for information," she adds.

Coulumbier believes museums with climate change exhibitions shouldn't only focus on these concepts but more on sustainable development.

"Protecting the environment can also mean having a bad impact on the economy and our jobs. It should be protecting the environment and not putting people at risk. (For example) if you want to stop gas emissions, we have to stop air transportation. But imagine if we stop air transportation, then we can't import food anymore. What about those people who need to travel to perform their jobs? It's about that other balance of what were ready to accept and trade off," she stresses, adding that the different issues and solutions, adaptation and mitigation measures and the involvement of the people should all be included in the message.

Nevertheless, Coulumbier says many museums around the world have already taken a multi-disciplinary approach and have opened up to larger topics in its exhibitions.

"Art museums are now no longer only about the arts. A science museum is not open only to pure science but more society questions. So in a way, I'd say that the future of our people in general, have been entering museums and climate change and sustainable development have been a burning issue for all of us. But it's important that museums be also able to address the needs of the people and teach them how to be better individuals, consumers and citizens of their countries," ends Coulumbier.