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JPICULTURE-Cultural heritage and global change

Extinction as cultural heritage? Exhibiting human-nature entanglements with extinct and threatened species

Alternative title: Utryddelse som kulturarv?

Awarded: NOK 2.1 mill.

Project Number:

296921

Application Type:

Project Period:

2018 - 2022

Location:

Extinction is a pressing problem in the world today. Increasing number of species are lost to extinction each year, a condition often labeled as the 'sixth mass extinction event'. Greater input is urgently needed from arts and humanities to work alongside, as well as to engage with, the scientific discoveries and ethical imperatives of contemporary wildlife conservation studies. Museums and art galleries are primary sites of public engagement with conservation issues like extinction. This project investigates how we can incorporate cultural stories of when animals and plants became extinct, as well as stories about when extinction was avoided, into museums and galleries. The project will explore the multiple emotions which are evoked in displays, including loss, guilt, belonging, care, mourning, and celebration, using interactive workshops, art-as-research practice, and narrative analysis across three different contexts in Norway, Poland, and UK. We will create three extinction as cultural heritage exhibit spaces, including one in Norway in 2021 together with the Aust-Agder museum and archive, as a testing ground for the research findings. Work on the Norwegian exhibition has progressed in 2020, with exhibition designs, an illustrated children's book, and an exhibition guidebook nearly complete. In 2019 the project team collected oral histories from Åmli locals on beaver hunting and relocation of beavers from the area. Data on modes of displaying extinction has been gathered through visits to other museums. Presentations on the role of extinction as cultural heritage have been made to stakeholder groups in the museum and cultural heritage sector in Scandinavia and internationally. Systematic work to publish the results in appropriate scholarly journals is underway. This research supports the conclusion that extinction narratives in museums can have cultural currency and impact.

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This project will explore how species extinction, as well as recovery of species threatened by extinction, can be considered within a cultural heritage framework. We will investigate how human-nature entanglements in extinction cases can be placed into cultural contexts within museum and art gallery exhibitions. Greater input is urgently needed from arts and humanities to work alongside, as well as to critically engage with, the scientific discoveries and ethical imperatives of contemporary wildlife conservation studies. Because museums and art galleries are one of the primary sites of public engagement with conservation issues including extinction, critical reflection on how they can be used to cultivate heritage thinking about nonhuman species is timely in light of the increasing number of species lost to extinction each year as we live through the ‘sixth mass extinction event’. The project investigates display practices for cultural stories of both extinction and the recovery of species which had been on the brink of extinction with an interdisciplinary collaborative approach. The project will explore the multiple emotional framings active simultaneously in displays, including loss, guilt, belonging, care, mourning, and celebration, using interactive workshops, art-as-research practice, and narrative analysis. The project will develop best practices for how the cultural significance of extinction events, whether they happened or were averted, can be displayed in museums and galleries and implement those best practices in three exhibit spaces as a testing ground for the research.

Funding scheme:

JPICULTURE-Cultural heritage and global change