DEN Project

‘Climate Change Wall’ at the Natural History Museum (and some dinosaurs…)

Climate Change Wall

Climate Change Wall

My second stop on Saturday was the Natural History Museum, and more specifically the ‘Climate Change Wall’ which is housed in the Darwin Centre, the museum extension that opened in September 2009. I’d not been to the Darwin Centre before, so began by taking the ‘Cocoon journey’ which begins on the 7th floor of the building. You then wind your way down walkways exploring insect and vegetation specimens alongside interactive displays and information videos, and also scientists at work. 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens are housed inside the cocoon and one of the areas of research in which they are used is climate change.

The Climate Change Wall is a little hidden away, back on the ground floor and behind the cocoon structure. The 12 metre wide interactive wall of screens responds to the presence of visitors through changing colours, light and sound, inviting them to investigate questions which focus around the consequences of climate change. Some of the panels give examples of current museum research in the field, showing how the collections housed in the Natural History Museum are of value. Screens focus on dragonfly populations moving north in the UK owing to a warming climate (evidence coming from amateur scientists records dating back to the nineteenth century) and the possibility of the UK being invaded by tropical insects like malaria carrying mosquitoes, the reconstruction of past climates and CO2 levels through the use of museum rock samples and ice cores, and species like polar bear and reindeer struggling to survive in a warming world –  using the historical example of the disappearance of the mammoth to explain the current threat. I particularly liked the links the wall made to museum objects and collections, but thought that it would have been useful to perhaps display some of the items used in the examples alongside the wall, rather than just using photographs. Smaller regional museums are unlikely to be able to afford such technologically demanding exhibits and need to find simpler but no less effective ways of engaging their visitors in the issue.

Before leaving the museum I braved the crowds to explore the dinosaur gallery, a display with direct links to long-term climatic changes, a change perhaps responsible for the extinction of the dinosaur. This gallery is so obviously the firm favourite with the museum’s visitors who find the animals both fascinating and frightening! New climate change exhibitions could perhaps look here for inspiration!

More information on the Climate Change Wall (including a video) and the Darwin Centre can be found on the Natural History Museum’s webpages, and more of my photos are available through the project flickr page.

Darwin Centre Entrance

Darwin Centre Entrance




    Marine January 10th, 2011 at 3:29 pm


    Thank you for details about the content of the climate change wall. I have to admit that I didn’t deeply explore it when I visited the Darwin Centre last May.

    I recognize that it’s interesting from a technical point of view but I wonder if it’s really efficient. It appears to me more like a museological super gadget. Maybe it’s because it’s hidden and lost in a big hall without any contextualization. It’s a pity because I guess it cost a lot !

    Do you know if there is any evaluation on it ?



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