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‘Atmosphere: exploring climate science’ at the Science Museum, London

On Monday 13th December I went to look around the new ‘Atmosphere: exploring climate science’ gallery at the Science Museum in London. The gallery opened on 4th December and the event received lots of coverage in the press:

The exhibition is divided into five different sections:

  • The climate system – focuses on the sun’s heat energy and explorations into past climates through tree ring data etc
  • Earth’s energy balance – focus on greenhouse gases and pioneering climate scientists including Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenium and Callendar
  • Carbon cycle – focus on the Keeling curve and air sampling and featuring a section from an Antarctic ice core
  • What might happen? – focus on climate and weather monitoring equipment, alongside predictions for ‘Climate 2100′ and an investigation of possible causes of temperature variations; volcanoes, variations in the Earth’s orbit, ElNino, human activities and variations in the sun’s output
  • Our future choices – looks at science and technology solutions to climate change; hydrogen cars, solar panels etc, and features a climate adaptation film.
Atmosphere: Exploring Climate Science

Atmosphere: Exploring Climate Science

'Flood Alert'

'Flood Alert'

HMS Challenger sea sediment samples, Hertfordshire pudding stone and Foraminifera

HMS Challenger sea sediment samples, Hertfordshire pudding stone and Foraminifera

Each section includes interactive displays and games alongside a range of objects (historical and contemporary) which are documented in greater detail in interactive display screens. Many of the objects on display have come from other museums around the country, and although I didn’t spot any items with explicit connections to the East Midlands region, I am sure that museum collections locally could be used in a similar way to inform about past climates and more generally to get people interested in the topic.

Please have a look at my flickr page for more photos of the gallery, and keep checking the Science Museum webpages for details of events connected with the exhbition.


Melton Carnegie Museum – ‘Changing Life in Rural Britain’

After the MuBu bursary holders meet-up last Tuesday I travelled on to Melton Mowbray for a return visit to Melton Carnegie Museum where a new gallery under the theme of ‘Changing Life in Rural Britain’ has recently opened. The new gallery doubles the size of the museum, and has several links to my research topic of ‘climate change’.

During my first visit to the museum back in July, Curator Jenny Dancey told me about her plans to include a number of weather diaries in the new galley. Although these are not yet in place owing to delays with digitization training etc, my return visit was still useful. The first item of interest that caught my eye was a stone cockerel, previoulsy part of a weather vane that was made in 1793 and used to show the wind direction on top of South Croxton Church. In the gallery the golden cockeral is placed alongside wellington boots and other ‘weather-proofed’ country clothing, and visitors are asked ‘What are your wellies like?’ and ‘What would you wear on a rainy day?’

In the section of the new gallery titled ‘Melton as a place to protect’, there are a number of weather related photographs. One image shows the Brentingby flood relief scheme on the River Eye where sluice gates control the flow of water floowing heavy rainfall. The next image shows an intense flood in Melton in 1922, the accompanying caption explaining how weather is crucial to life in the countryside as most agriculture relies on a fine balance of sunshine and rain. Melton has apparently experiences some of the 50 most intense hailstorms ever recorded in the UK. The final image in the series shows the Brown Argus butterfly – a new addition to the Melton area as a result of climatic change creating warmer summers.

Chatting to Jenny at the entrance desk just before leaving the museum, I noticed a sheet for museum staff to record the day’s weather alongside visitor numbers. Jenny explained that the weather had a significant impact on visitor numbers and how she had decided that it would be a good idea to keep a record. The day I visited was very cold, icy and increasingly foggy so visitor numbers had been low! This is another example of museum staff collecting climate related data that could be of relevance in building up a picture of any changes in climate. The museum also has a state of the art climate monitoring system which automatically records the temperature and humidity both inside and outside of the museum, increasing the amount of climate data being collected by the museum.

Golden cockerel, Melton Carnegie Museum

Golden cockerel, Melton Carnegie Museum


MuBu bursary holder meet-up!

Last Tuesday I went to New Walk Museum in Leicester to catch up with the other MuBu bursary holders – David (mining) and Cynthia (food). We’re all enjoying our projects, especially our visits to the museums of the region and it was great to be able to share our progress, ideas and problems! Time is flying by and it really is time for me to start putting together my final digital resource. Any ideas on the best format for this and what would be most useful would be much appreciated… The MuBu digital writer Rod Duncan was also able to come along to New Walk and to find out a little more about our projects. Please check Rod’s MuBu webpage for excerpts from Rod’s short interviews with us and for more on the other MuBu projects he’s visited. We also had time for a look around the museum before lunch in the cafe and heading back out into the snow!

We’re planning another meet-up in the New Year in Eastwood where David will give Cynthia and I a tour around the D.H.Lawrence birthplace museum and heritage centre – I’m looking forward to it! In the meantime, please do have a look at David and Cynthia’s MuBu project pages.


The Empire of Climate – Radio 4

Every afternoon (3:45 pm) this week, Radio 4 are broadcasting ‘The Empire of Climate’, a series of five short programmes by geographer Professor David Livingstone in which he considers climate as an empire that has shaped our lives through history, not just as something which we are altering today.

My supervisor Dr Georgina Endfield also contributes to episode 2.

The programmes are all available to listen again through the BBC iplayer.


Cultural Spaces of Climate

Tomorrow I will be attending the first workshop of the Cultural Spaces of Climate AHRC network in association with the Royal Meteorological Society and Royal Geographical Society which is being held at the University of Nottingham. The network is led by Dr Georgina Endfield and Dr Carol Morris in the School of Geography at Nottingham and the programme of activities aim:

1.)    To question the bias toward climate change, and global as the preferred scale, in contemporary climate research

2.)    To refocus attention on public understanding of climate, and weather, at the local, sensory level

3.)    To consider the changing cultural spaces of climate knowledge production, past and present

4.)    To explore the actual and potential role of interest groups, including enthusiast/amateur, professional and learned societies in the collection, production and circulation of climate knowledge past and present.

The workshop tomorrow is titled ‘Reculturing Climate’ and will include a plenary by James Fleming (Corby College, Maine) on ‘What counts as knowledge? The historical spaces of Klima‘. I will hopefully be presenting my work on climate change and local museums at the third workshop in the series to be held in June.

Please visit the network webpages to find out more.