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“Hot Heads” at the Dana Centre, Science Museum

Tuesday evening was time for “Hot Heads”. The interactive public event was held at the Science Museum’s Dana Centre and was part of the the Museum’s ‘Climate Changing’ event programme, organised to co-incide with the opening of the ‘Atmosphere’ gallery.

The panel was comprised of:

Geoff Beattie – a psychologist who explored how we could manufacture a “green revolution”. Geoff explained that although everyone knows that green is good, the impicity and explicit attitudes of individuals are often different meaning that opinions and associations are often disassociated when it comes to green issues. Geoff had been involved in some experiments that had looked at the unconsciousness at work, for example tracking people’s eye movements as they looked at images of different products. Little time was spent looking at information on the product’s carbon footprint, as people want to find good news about their purchase of the product. Perhaps climate change is therefore just too depressing to prompt positive action?

Oliver Payne – considered how green products and lifestyles could become the products of desire. Sustainable behaviour needs to be for everyone, so we are selling to all, yet we are all highly context dependent. We all tend to have an aversion to extremes, and are not purely rational or irrational. Commitments made in public work, and changing the default option changes behaviour as we are seem to welcome decisions that are made for us. Framing is also important as is loss aversion – the pain of loss is apparently twice that of the pleasure of gain so we work harder to avoid loss. Social norms are crucial as no-one wants to be seen as the ‘weirdo’. Oliver’s final factor was temporal discounting as we all tend to dicount the future as we would rather have a reward immediately (even if it is smaller than a reward in the future).

Matt Prescott – explored how policy could be changed to influence the masses through exploring the idea of personal carbon trading. Whilst many people point to the state as being most responsible for climate change, we are ultimately responsible through our use of housing, transport and public services. But the problem is remote, we can’t see it. Matt outlined the main principles of David Fleming’s policy framework to solve the problem through applying emissions trading to us as individuals. Everyone in the nation would have an equal right to pollute and we would then be encouraged to pollute less. We could buy more carbon from those who had not used all of their quote, creating a parallel currency in carbon. Carbon credits could be saved in a community who would be rewarded with new community buildings and facilities. Could we develop these ideas into a policy we would all vote for?

Samuel Fankhauser – an economist and member of the UK Committee for Climate Change explained the nature of Britain’s carbon challenge in reducing its Greenhouse Gas emissions dramatically by 2050. But how to encourage changes in behaviour? Taxes, regulation, subsidies, reputation, assistance and information are all possible ways. So what are the best policies to get people to use less energy in the home?

Lots to think about, but I’m sure that regional museums could play a role in encouraging more “green” behaviour – in fact I’m sure many already are!

 

Museum of Lincolnshire Life

On Monday I travelled to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life in Lincoln.  The main purpose of my visit was to meet with Curator Sarah Basquill and to look at a few items from the museum stores with links to weather and climate. Lincolnshire has an excellent online catalogue of its cultural collections and this is how I found the homemade weather gauge donated to the museum in 1967, a weather almanac for 1899 and a leaflet advertising Lincoln City Football Club’s  Community Weather game that ran in 2007.
‘The ‘weather gauge’ is catalogued as a ‘domestic furnishing’, and is a clearly homemade weather house, quite different to the one I found at Calke Abbey. This homemade version has only one figure remaining in its doorway. The gentleman is fixed to a piece of wire, so it is unlikely that this weather house would actually have worked, instead I think it was probably used to simply display what the day’s weather was like – if it was raining the gentleman would have been moved so he was outside of the house, if it was sunny, the lady would have been moved out.
Raphael’s Prophetic Almanac or the Prophetic Messenger and Weather Guide for 1899 comprises ‘a variety of useful matter and tables’, including predictions of the events and the weather that will occur in each month during the year. It was published in London by W. Foulsham and Co.
The leaflet for the ‘Imps Community Weather Game’ details a competition run by Lincoln City Football Club (the Imps) and Co-op Lincoln in 2007. Entrants had to match numbers with temperatures reported in the Lincolnshire Echo and Daily Telegraph for six locations.
These three items effectively show just how diverse museum collections can be, particularly those items kept in storage which these three all are.
'Weather gauge'

'Weather gauge'

Almanac/Weather Guide for 1899

Almanac/Weather Guide for 1899

'Imps Community Weather Game'

'Imps Community Weather Game'

 

Museums, Learning and the Environment

Yesterday I spent the day at Brooklands museum in Surrey. The main purpose of my visit was to attend a ‘Museums, Learning and the Environment’ training day run by Renaissance South East. Most of the presenters came from museums in the south-east region who had received funding under the Green SLIME (Science Links In Museum Education) initiative that looks at how museums can address sustainability. More broadly SLIME is designed to support and promote the study of science through museum collections to a range of different audiences.

Green SLIME projects include hay meadow restoration, biodiversity improvements to museums and partner schools, art projects, archaeological projects looking at historical and contemporary settlement planning, sustainable museum marketing, sustainable buildings and garden creation. All involve collaboration with community or education groups. The project talks were combined with three ‘expert’ presentations on ‘Sustainability education and culture and heritage’ (Ann Finlayson), ‘Engaging learners in biodiversity’ (Surrey Wildlife Trust), and ‘Sustainable living and entrepreneurship’ (Trudy Thompson). At the end of the day there was an ‘open slot’ in which I was able to speak briefly about my own research. It was really interesting to think about my own research in relation to these projects – everyone at the event was using museum collections to engage with current issues in environmental science.

Over lunch I was able to have a very quick look around Brooklands - the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, constructed at Weybridge, Surrey in 1907, “the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation, home of Concorde and the site of many engineering and technological achievements throughout eight decades of the 20th century”. The Museum displays a wide range of Brooklands-related motoring and aviation exhibits ranging from giant racing cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Could any of these items be linked to climate change?

The most obvious relationship with the theme is the contribution of air and motor travel to the changing climate through emissions. There is a large collection of aero engines. Visitors can also enter the stratosphere chamber, designed in 1946 to test aircraft components under environmental conditions prevailing at 70,000 feet – this meant the reproduction of temperatures as cold as anywhere on earth!

Looking around the car collection I came across a ’1911 Napier Colonial Deluxe’ that was especially designed for life in the colonies and the off-road conditions that it would have been subjected to. It would have been tested cross-country and then speed tested on the Brooklands track. This made me think about the different types of vehicles used in different climates and environmental conditions around the world… and the contemporary efforts of car manufacturers to reduce vehicle emissions and develop ‘environmentally friendly’ cars.

More photos on flickr.

1911 Napier Colonial Deluxe

1911 Napier Colonial Deluxe

Concorde

Concorde

 

Eastwood – MuBu Bursary Holder Meet-up

On Friday I spent the day in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire visiting the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum, the Breach House, Durban House Heritage Centre and Brinsley Headstocks, all in the company of knowledgeable Eastwood resident, ex-miner and MuBu bursary holder David Amos, MuBu food bursary holder Cynthia Brown, and David Coleman ex-miner and now historical coal mining entertainer. Together we learnt lots about DH Lawrence and his family, the history of coal mining in Eastwood, and the legacy of coal on the landscape of Eastwood. This was a fascinating day out and a chance for me to catch-up with the other MuBu bursary holders before our bursaries end next month. We are all still enjoying our museum visits and hoping to get in a few more before the end of the project. Please see my Flickr page for more photos…

DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum

DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum

Brinsley Headstocks

Brinsley Headstocks

 

‘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

 

‘London Futures’ at the Museum of London

On Saturday I was able to visit the ‘London Futures’ exhibition at the Museum of London.
The exhibition opened on the 1st October and runs until the 6th March 2011. Photos from my visit are available on the project flickr page, and you can also view the exhbition images at http://www.postcardsfromthefuture.co.uk and on The Guardian’s pages.

The exhibition is made up of 14 provocative visions of the future by artists Didier Madoc-Jones and Robert Graves. Each image considers the potential impact of climate change on the city of London, showing how a warming climate may affect different aspects of the city. Visitors are asked to contemplate:

  •  ’London as Venice’ after flooding breaches the Thames Barrier
  • ‘Picadily Circus – a haven of calm’ as water levels continue to rise
  • ‘Hyde Park- palm oil’ plantation as more of the city’s green spaces are given over to industrial agriculture for energy production
  • ‘Notting Hill Carnival’ where carnival-goers are covered in blue sun-block for protection from the rising temperatures
  • ‘Glacial Thames’ as winters become unbearably harsh
  • ‘The Gherkin’ now home to refugees from equatorial lands following rising temperatures and the collapse of the global economy
  • ‘Parliament Square rice paddies’ as more land is converted to food production and rice becomes the staple diet of Londoners
  • ‘Trafalgar Square shanty town’ the new home for people previously resident of the tropics who have been forced to relocate further north
  • ‘Buckingham Palace shanty town’ showing the growing impacts of the climate refugee crisis
  • ‘Kew Nuclear Power Station’ as nucelar power becomes widely accepted as the only viable alternative to fossil fuels
  • ‘Camel Guards Parade’ where the traditional horses have been replaced by camels that are better able to withstand the heat
  • ‘Thames Tidal Power’ generating electricty for thousands of homes and businesses in the city
  • ‘Skating at Tower Bridge’ during a mini ice-age owing to a slowing of the Gulf Stream
  • ‘St Paul’s Monkeys’ who have replaced the traditional gargoyles
  • ‘Whitehall Tornado’ as extreme weather conditions become a regular feature of life in the UK
  • ‘The Mall – Royal Power’ as wind farms begin to fill our backyards.

Graves and Madoc-Jones explain their motivation for the exhibition in the following way:

“We want to create a space in which people can consider how climate change may impact on their lives.  We are committed to making beautiful and arresting images which tell their own story.  We have deliberately chosen ‘postcard’ shots of London, places that all of us are familiar with. By focusing our creative energy on these well- known panoramas, the images have taken on a life of their own. Even we were surprised by the way the story unfolded as the scene was created. Each picture has become a mini soap-opera, alive with colour, drama, triumph and adversity as our city is transformed and Londoners adapt to meet this change.”

The images certainly seem to have got people talking about climate change, and are a welcome attempt to visualise some of the likely (and also perhaps some of the not so likely) impacts of a changing climate on a city which many people are familiar with. The exhbition has also generated some criticism for exaggerating the potential impacts and being more likely to prompt further denial of the issue rather that positive mitigation action. Some have also criticised the images for being misleading and stereotypical regarding the movements of climate refugees through their depiction of immigrants swamping British culture. You can read more in The Guardian’s piece ‘Fantasy images of climate migration will fuel existing prejudices’.

The Museum of London also tackles the long term variation in the Earth’s climate in its permanent ‘London before London’ gallery which focuses on London’s natural landscape and the people who lived in it before the Romans arrived. A graphical climatic reconstruction shows how the climate in London has changed since 500,000BC and how the course of the River Thames (central to the city’s development) has changed. In the glass cabinets opposite the graph are numerous objects dredged from the river bed – among them bones of elephants, bear, hippopotamus and mammoth. You can explore the London before London gallery online.

'London before London'

'London before London'

'London Futures'

'London Futures' - Postcards from the Future

 

‘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

 

Meeting with John Wilson

As a follow up to my entry on the Bromley House weather records, last week I was able to meet with John Wilson, a member of the library and the author of a paper on the records. John was extremely helpful and enthusiastic about meteorology in the region, particularly in Nottinghamshire where John’s own research has been based.

John has also published material on Mr Arnold B. Tinn, a man who took daily weather observations uninterruptedly for almost 45 years (1989-1962) and contributed several pieces on local weather to the journal East Midlands Geographer. His book This Weather of Ours was published in 1946. Mr Tinn regularly corresponded with the Geography Department at the University of Nottingham and his manuscript collection of meteorological data is held at the University Archives. I intend to explore these further in the near future!

As a retired pharmacist, one of John’s main research interests is the relationship between the weather and health, and he is currently studying the Medical Officer Charts for the city of Nottingham.

John will be giving a talk on Nottinghamshire’s meterologists at the Ruddington Local History Society on the 1st December which I shall be attending.

 

Bromley House Library, Nottingham

On Thursday I attended a prospective members event at Bromley House Library in Nottingham, home of Nottingham Subscription Library. The library was founded in 1816, before the public library service had come into being. At this time there were around 150 original members (each of whom was asked to purchase a share in the library and pay an annual subscription fee) and the premises was a building in Carlton Street. The first librarian was a Mr Hardy who lived onsite, and the library seems to have largely modeled itself on the Athenaeum private club and library in Liverpool. The library was formed before the Dewey system came into being and the books were therefore organised as follows: A=theology, B=philosophy, C=history, biography and travel, D=literature, E=fine arts and F=politics, economics and law. The books continue to be organised according to this classification system today, also being divided by size and numbered in acquisition order. The library moved to Bromley House in 1821 and promptly also installed a remote-indicating wind-vane which was restored in 2000 and can be seen behind the issue desk. Today the library has approximately 1,100 members.

Among the library’s collections are a weather diary for 1826-27 made at Bromley House by librarian James Archer, when Britain was still in the grip of the ‘Little Ice Age’. Another weather record was kept at the library between 1839-1840 (probably by R.N. Harris, Library Porter and Housekeeper) but this is now only available in the National Meteorological Archive. I hope to return to Bromley House soon to consult the weather diary and the local history collection. Thank you to John Wilson for bringing these local weather records to my attention through his paper in the Journal of the Thoroton Society.

Bromley House Library, Angel Row, Nottingham

Bromley House Library, Angel Row, Nottingham

Bromley House Library from the walled garden

Bromley House Library from the walled garden

 
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