Our planet is at risk from climate change, war, terrorism, drought and extreme weather events, and the unintended consequences of unfettered biotechnological and economic development. Many of these problems are the consequence of an erroneous and dangerous detachment from our environment and others, and of various forms of exploitation, injustice and inequality founded on the illusion that the human is the centre of all things, a dominant view in Western thought. Furthermore the newly visible powers and agencies of a more-than-human world are becoming increasingly apparent as we confront the material consequences of advanced capitalism and two centuries of industrialisation. While our life has always been ecological, the human subject-based frameworks we have chosen for ourselves have become habitual and institutionalised, and have divested us of our ecological sensibilities. If we are to avoid compounding existing problems and creating new ones, we require new cognitive frames and practices of life that promote ethical forms of conjoint action that acknowledge our entanglements, shared vulnerabilities and futures not only with other humans, but also with the more-than-human world.
Museums are custodians of cultural memory and one of the most trusted information sources in society. Through their collections and exhibitions, museums are powerful pedagogical institutions, instrumental in shaping ideas about culture, identity and cultural difference, and about human relations with nature, technology and science. They are therefore ideally placed to frame and promote new theories and practices of life. This book aims to promote relational and more-than-human ways of thinking and acting in the world through museum collection, exhibition and institutional practices. It is uniquely concerned with concretely reconstituting human-centred concepts and practices based on the human subject, and developing practices and a new type of museology that have the potential to signal an entangled and more-than-human approach to the make-up and composition of the world.
This book critically engages with and extends international approaches to progressing real-world and scholarly change within the museum sector by undertaking a series of ‘ecologizing experiments’ to rework the possible relations between things and people using a series of museum, collection, theoretical and exhibition case studies.
Introduction 1. Reworking the human subject in history, natural history and science museums 2. Creating more-than-human objects 3. Narrating climate change in museum exhibitions for a more-than-human world 4. The ontological refashioning of museums as institutional forms 5. More-than-human museologies 6. Conclusion