I have co-curated or contributed to the development of several exhibitions as outcomes of recently funded research projects.
Reimagining Museums for Climate Action began life as a design and ideas competition, launched on International Museum Day 2020. Responding to the two main pillars of climate action - mitigation and adaptation - the competition asked how museums could help society make the deep, transformative changes needed to achieve a net-zero or zero-carbon world. Rather than focus on a specific location or type of museum, the competition invited proposals that aimed to unsettle and subvert the very foundations of museological thinking to support and encourage meaningful climate action. Importantly, we wanted to invite those who are not normally part of the conversation around museums to take part. We specifically asked for design and concept proposals that were radically different from the ‘traditional’ museum, or that explored new ways for traditional museums to operate. The responses, which could address any aspect of museum design and activity, ranged from the fantastical to the highly practical.
We received more than 250 proposals from around 50 countries and with an international panel of judges, and in consultation with the Glasgow Science centre, we selected 8 winning proposals to develop their ideas as part of an exhibition which would be hosted by the Science Centre in advance of and during the time of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, COP26.
The Reimagining Museums for Climate Action exhibition first opened at the Glasgow Science Centre in June 2021, running through until mid-October 2021 and being seen by around 60,000 visitors. It re-opened on the 31st October 2021 as part of the official UNFCCC COP26 Green Zone over the two weeks of the UN Climate Change Conference from 31st October to 12th November, during which time it was seen by another c.60,000 visitors. The exhibition was also featured as one of “Five incredible ideas from the COP26 Green Zone” as part of the COP26 Virtual Green Zone, hosted by Google Arts and Culture, which will remain live as a virtual artefact of the exhibits and the activities which took place there. RMCA team members participated in a number of events in the COP26 Blue and Green Zones, presenting a virtual plenary panel from COP26 for the Museums Association Conference on the 9th of November and co-organising the panel “Powering climate action through heritage policies, organisations, research and public programmes” which took place in the EU Pavilion on the 11th of November.
The project and exhibition were funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and co-led by Rodney Harrison (UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA)) and Colin Sterling (University of Amsterdam), with Henry McGhie (Curating Tomorrow), and Emma Woodham and colleagues at the Glasgow Science Centre.
This virtual exhibition on the history of eugenics and scientific racism at University College London as told through objects in its collections is curated by Subhadra Das (Researcher in Critical Eugenics at the Sarah Parker Remond Centre in the Institute of Advanced Studies and Curator of UCL Science Collections) and Rodney Harrison (Professor of Heritage Studies, UCL Institute of Archaeology) and draws on work undertaken by MA Museum Studies students from the UCL Institute of Archaeology undertaken between 2012 and 2021 as part of the module “Collections Curatorship”. In addition to drawing on group research projects undertaken by students on this module over the past decade, the virtual exhibition features 21 object essays written by MA Museum Studies students for their individual assignments in 2021.
The exhibition “Los ecos del Proyecto Huemul, 1949-2017”, was produced as an outcome of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Restricted Access Pilot Project, awarded to Rodney Harrison and Trinidad Rico (Director of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies at Rutgers University). It was hosted in July 2017 at the Balseiro Institute in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. The exhibition was curated and presented in-progress research led by Trinidad Rico and supported by Rodney Harrison and Esther Breithoff on the ‘echoes’ or ‘afterlives’ of the Huemul Atomic Project, an early attempt to develop nuclear fusion technology which was established in 1949 and ran for several years under conditions of extreme secrecy on Isla Huemul, within Nahuel Haupi National Park, the oldest national park in Argentina.
Co-curated with Henry McGhie, with input from the Heritage Futures research team, Heritage Futures draws on the themes of Diversity, Profusion, Transformation and Uncertainty and other select aspects of the research undertaken by the Heritage Futures research programme. Alongside the exhibition, in the Heritage Futures Studio, the museum asks its visitors to help to imagine, design and begin to create the future. The exhibition runs from December 2018 to December 2020. A brief article including interviews with curators and others involved in developing the exhibition is available on the AHRC website.
The Cabinets of Consequence exhibition aimed to explore the inter-relations of humans and non-humans in the Anthropocene, drawing on UCL research across the disciplines of Geology, Neuroscience, Literature, Computer Science and Archaeology. It ran for 6 months until May 2017, drawing on various case studies from the Heritage Futures research programme alongside research from across UCL. The exhibition was commissioned by UCL Culture and curated by Metallurgy (Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright). The work is featured in the book Remain by Jussi Parikka, Rebecca Schneider and Ioana B. Juncan, published by University of Minnesota Press in 2019.