Updates on the Coalition

September 21, 2017

Notes from the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice Introductory Session at the Alberta Museums Association / Western Museums Association Conference

Edmonton, Alberta

 Co-Chairs:    Robert R. Janes, David Jensen

Facilitator:     Naomi Grattan

Recorder:      Alexandra Hatcher

  1. What are we, as museum workers and their organizations, currently doing to build public awareness in the face of climate change?
  • Museums are touching on issues, but this is limited through programming and exhibits
  • We need to recognize what is being done and model that behaviour / actions
  • We should be looking at our own footprint
  • Looking at climate change as human interaction event – connecting to advocates outside of the sector
  • Ask living history museums to take a stand
  • Connect to the K-12 Curriculum
  • Museums are seen as neutral places for conversation


  • Road blocks / challenges with own structures (internal org)
  • Do we actually do what we say we do?
  • There’s a disconnect
  • Rural vs urban
    • Dealing with climate change deniers
  • Use the term sustainability – encompasses more than just climate change [UNSDGs]
  • Funder that is oil/ gas/coal = how manage? Potential to silence the conversation

Existing Examples:

  • Building has a living roof
  • Community Gardens (use rain water)
  • Worked with local university to build a solar house
  • LEED certified buildings


  1. How might we (museum workers and their organizations) work collaboratively to enhance our efforts toward this end?
  • Museums are seen as neutral places for conversation
  • Service organizations can act as conveners on the issue
    • AMA promoting social responsibility
    • Use existing small museum networks to share information (Alberta – CARMN, CREAM, Spirit of the Peace…)
  • Explore the connection to Truth and Reconciliation calls for action


  • Need to actively advocate
  • Take advantage of the Canadian political climate right now
    • Canada is positioned to take the lead
    • The States will come along…
  • Approach carefully or else we’ll just be talking to ourselves
  • Think beyond sector
  • Start small
  • Subversive action
  • Inviting disparate voices in for conversation
  • Focus on how decisions impact the future


  • We need something to deal with museum facilities
  • Sustainable buildings


  • Travelling exhibits are wasteful
  • Admit that travelling exhibits contribute to climate change
  • More online exhibits
  • Recycling exhibit components

Individual Actions:

  • Talk about how people can reduce their carbon footprint
  • Connections between individuals and then end up with network that is affecting change
  • Options for how people can make changes themselves

Museum Actions:

  • Increase science literacy
  • Making climate science more accessible
  • People want to know how people are impacted by climate change rather than environment
  • Get people excited about the earth i.e. bees, gardens, polar bears
  • Get them excited about how it impacts them
  • Stories from old time farmers to talk about changes to work, life, lifestyle over time because of weather
  • Demonstrating things that are polluting and show how things have changed
  • Let visitors reach their own conclusions from information presented
  • Connections then to why and to other parts of the world
  • Establish “green teams” within institution, share what’s working with others in community
  • Be honest about what we’re throwing out

Role of Governance

  • Increase Board diversity (in thinking)
  • Power of Governance – may silence institution (so then it comes down to programming)
  • How do you talk about issues then (with your Board, within organization)


  • Looking for tools from this group
  • Models for engagement
  • Exhibit tools (maybe framework for exhibit development)

August 23/17

Exciting news! The Coalition’s own Robert R. Janes will be a panellist at the Alberta Museums Association Closing General Session Sept. 23: “Museums UNITE to Improve Communities.” 

Conference Panel Preview includes a thoughtful interview with Dr. Janes on the origins and goals of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice.

Read more …

Coalition’s work noted in ELM, EU Lifelong Learning Magazine

July 5/17

International coalition

Bridget McKenzie isn’t taking any chances.  She’s recently linked up with a Canadian initiative called Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice.

They are looking at the concept of “activist museums”, an approach that would see the cultural sector transform from an institutional top down model to a grass roots up model.  They think this will aid the existing power that “cultural institutions have to inform the public about challenging issues, how museums add to the political power of a city and how we can ensure that culture is open to all.”

Bridget McKenzie is enthusiastic about these ideas: “I want to support a coalition of cultural organisations across Europe working for climate justice, inspired by the new Canadian coalition,” she says, “so that UK museums can do more to involve the community in developing programmes, so that they are relevant to a shifting world”.

More …

Alberta Museums Association to take action on climate change in new partnership with the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

June 22/17

Edmonton, Alberta

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) is excited to announce a new partnership with the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (CMCJ)to support Alberta museums in taking an active role in the fight against climate change. Through this partnership the AMA and the CMCJ will develop a series of educational tools to support and empower museums across the province to address environmental sustainability and understand their role in mitigating climate change.

More …

 Word’s Getting Around

June 9/17

Canadian Museums Association executive director John G. McAvity wrote this op-ed on climate change in the Vancouver Sun for Ocean Awareness Week, note the shout-out to the Coalition in the 7th paragraph!

Coalition at the Canadian Museums Association Conference, Ottawa

April 7/17

  • The Coalition held its first meeting at the British Columbia Museums Association Conference last October 2016, where the mission, goals and priorities were initially developed.
  • A national Advisory Group of six Coalition members is now in place to provide overall governance and share the work. Members of the Advisory Group are Chris Castle (Ontario), Joy Davis (BC), David Jensen (BC), René Rivard (Quebec), Naomi Grattan (Alberta) and Robert Janes (Alberta). We intend to expand this group as the work increases.
  • A funding request was sent to the new federal department of Environment and Climate Change, and discussions are underway. A funding request was also made to the Alberta Museums Association to produce a three-part video series on museums and climate change, including a budget for a Coalition website.
  • Publicity about the Coalition includes an interview in the BCMA publication Round Up, an interview in the Museum of Anthropology’s Magazine, and a Commentary in Nature – the most prestigious scientific journal in the world.
  • There is a new initiative by several BC Coalition members to collaborate on a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology. This exhibition will focus on “Earth, Sea and Sky” from the perspective of each participating museum, with an emphasis on responsibility and sustainability.
  • We now have Facebook and Twitter accounts: Facebook Group Page – Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice  Twitter Account – @CanMuseClimeJust
  • We have received expressions of interest in the Coalition from eight countries.
  • All the work done to date has been voluntary.

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