South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries


We're delighted to announce the full line-up of speakers and workshop sessions for the 2020 South West Fed Conference. You can read about the fantastic line-up below.


'...what happens there will affect us all.' The British Museum's Arctic: culture and climate exhibition in the context of Covid - Stuart Frost (Head of Interpretation and Volunteers, British Museum) & Julie Carr (Interpretation Officer, British Museum)

Our opening keynote explores the development of the British Museum’s current exhibition Arctic: culture and climate, the impact of COVID-19 on exhibition planning and how the museum has responded. The Arctic has been inhabited for nearly 30,000 years, and the exhibition highlights the resourcefulness and resilience of its indigenous peoples through a wide range of objects. However the effects of rapid climate change are threatening Arctic peoples’ way of life.

This keynote offers a case study informed by audience evaluation and open, honest reflection on the challenges of developing a balanced charged-for-exhibition against the backdrop of the climate emergency, a challenging issue that many people prefer to ignore. Lockdown forced the British Museum to postpone the exhibition’s opening. The presentation goes on to focus on the wider challenges of reopening & rethinking the whole museum (including the exhibitions) in the context of COVID, outlines the measures that have been put in place and provides feedback on what has been learned since the reopening of the British Museum (due 27 August).

Stuart Frost is Head of Interpretation and Volunteers at the British Museum, London. He has worked on many permanent galleries and special exhibitions, most recently co-curating 'Collecting histories: Solomon Islands'. Prior to commencing his current role in November 2009, he spent almost eight years at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Julie Carr is an Interpretation Officer at the British Museum, London. She has worked on many special exhibitions at the Museum, including I object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent, and was the interpretation-lead on the exhibition Arctic: culture and climate.

Communicating climate change using museum archaeology - Jess Collins (Independent researcher, University of Exeter)

This presentation, based on a recent PhD thesis, seeks to establish a place for museum archaeology in climate change communication. Using data gathered from structured interviews with museum practitioners, reflections are offered on the opportunities for climate change engagement involving archaeological objects and ideas. The unifying themes of resilience, imagination and timescales are identified and offered as a template for a pop-up climate exhibition.

The presentation concludes that by bringing a human element to ‘difficult’ science, along with a wealth of stories, archaeology has a unique voice that needs to be heard in museum narratives of climate change.

Jess Collins has recently completed a thesis in Archaeology at the University of Exeter, investigating the role of museums as climate change communicators. In particular, she examined the potential for museums to use archaeology to engage their audiences with the climate emergency. Jess has a background in teaching and museum education, having worked at the Fitzwilliam Museum and as education officer at the Farmland Museum, Ely, and the Cambridge Folk Museum.

Fit for the Future Network: Accelerating Ambition into Action - Hannah Mann (Fit for the Future Network Coordinator)

This presentation will showcase some of the inspirational initiatives that are being delivered by members of Fit for the Future Network as they seek to tackle the climate emergency and manage the increasing impact of climate change on their operations. It will demonstrate the power of collaboration and knowledge-sharing across different sectors, and offer real examples of how collaboration has led to positive sustainability outcomes. This conference theme is particularly relevant given the number of our members setting and delivering on a carbon net zero target, and their complimentary work to mitigate against impacts on their collections, buildings and land.

Hannah coordinates Fit for the Future, a sustainability network for practitioners from 80 charities, heritage bodies and arts and cultural organisations. Hannah supports its members to become climate resilient organisations by facilitating knowledge sharing opportunities, delivering impactful partnerships, and developing the network’s events programme. Previously she has worked on sustainable transport projects for Sustrans and Living Streets, and delivered the successful ‘Climate Week’ initiative.

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference: interpreting the climate crisis for a family audience - Sophie Sage (Exhibitions Manager, V&A Museum of Childhood) & Kristian Volsing (Project Curator, V&A Museum of Childhood)

In 2019 the V&A Museum of Childhood opened a display about the Extinction Rebellion (XR) Families Group. Responding to issues raised by our Children’s Forum, the museum wanted to address the climate crisis for the generation it will most affect. This talk will explore how museums can help encourage children and families to think about these issues that are so close to their hearts. The talk will also take a look at sustainable exhibition design and how organisations can become greener with their temporary programme. It will conclude by considering how to create a an exhibition for families in a post-covid world and the pandemic’s impact on developing sustainable exhibition and on museums’ role in tackling the climate emergency.

Sophie is the V&A Museum of Childhood’s Exhibitions Manager. Over nearly 7 years she’s worked on extensive temporary displays, exhibitions, installations and tours, all of which have specialised in interpretation for a family audience. Sophie is one of the V&A’s Green Champions and has recently become Environment Rep for Prospect within the V&A.

Kristian is a Project Curator at the V&A whose interests lie in contemporary design, digital, pop culture and fashion. Currently working on the redevelopment of the Museum of Childhood, he was previously co-curator of the V&A’s ground-breaking 2018 exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, and part of the original Rapid Response Collecting team.


The Carbon Literate Museum - Dave Coleman (Managing Director, Carbon Literacy Project) & Lynsey Jones, Museum Development Officer, Museum Development North West)

This keynote explains the Carbon Literacy Project and the exciting opportunities it offers museums to train their own staff and volunteers to become Carbon Literate and to deliver learning programmes in their communities.

Carbon Literacy is ‘an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.’ The Carbon Literacy Project, which was founded in Manchester in 2012, aims to give 1 million people a day’s worth of certified Carbon Literacy learning that covers climate change, carbon footprints and the changes that learners can make in their workplace, community, home, school and any other setting. The project is globally unique and in 2015 was included in the prestigious Transformative Actions Program (TAP) as part of the UN Climate Change summit (COP21) in Paris. It now extends across the UK and into mainland Europe.

Since 2016 Museum Development North West has been working with the Carbon Literacy Trust to roll out carbon literacy training in the museum sector. In 2018 Museum Development North West became an accredited Carbon Literacy Training Organisations. It has provided workshops for over 200 people in museum and heritage organisations and has established a network of Carbon Literate trainers across the North West including Cumbria Museums Consortium, the Manchester Partnership, Nantwich Museum and Greater Manchester Police Museum.

Dave Coleman is the co-founder of Cooler Projects CIC who deliver the Carbon Literacy Project on behalf of the Carbon Literacy Trust. Having graduated in biochemistry, Dave began his career with Deloittes and then spent twelve years working in IT becoming a director of one of the North West’s top IT companies. He then founded a small consultancy and spent ten years working as a management trainer and coach in the commercial sector. After spending six years on the board of Friends of the Earth, he chaired the “Energy” writing group of “Manchester A Certain Future”, and now sits on its steering group, chairing the Low Carbon Culture aim. Dave is an experienced public speaker and advocate and has appeared widely on BBC TV and Radio, ITV, C4 and Sky and in the regional and national press. Recent work has included management consultancy advising a corporate on product sustainability, developing a feasibility study for a sustainable business network, work creating, developing and leading The Carbon Literacy Project, and general advocacy, advisory and chairing work.

Lynsey Jones is Museum Development Officer, Museum Development North West. She has worked in the museums and galleries sector for over 20 years, currently at a strategic level and also has extensive experience as a curator and collections manager for local authority, independent and national museums. Her previous roles include Collections Manager at the National Football Museum, Curriculum Adviser at Yorkshire Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and Collections Officer at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery. Lynsey has a specific interest in museums and environmental sustainability and is a certified Carbon Literacy trainer.

Engaging with protest; Rapid collecting - Laura Boon (Lloyd’s Register Foundation Public Curator: Contemporary Maritime, National Maritime Museum Greenwich)

Activism such as the Strike movement inspired by Greta Thunberg and the civil disobedience movement ‘Extinction Rebellion’ (XR) raises the challenge of how museums engage with grassroots movements. In August 2019 the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich displayed the ‘Polly Higgins’ blue Extinction Rebellion boat outside the museum entrance with interpretation exploring ecocide, climate emergency and sea level rising. Unexpectedly the space around the boat became used by XR groups and the local community for ‘die-ins’ and community meetings. The museum now provides a venue for the XR family group to hold community activities. The project presented a number of new challenges for the museum. This presentation will explore the lessons learnt, practicalities and our plans for the future.

Why a T-Rex went on strike - the story behind #ArtStrike, a global movement inspired by the climate crisis - Ben Templeton (Creative Director, Thought Den)

It started in an air-conditioned room on a strangely hot Summer’s day. Eight weeks later, eight cultural organisations placed an object ‘on strike’. And the movement continues to this day. This talk unpicks why #ArtStrike was created, how it captured people’s imagination, what went wrong and where it’s going next.

Ben Templeton is an award-winning creative director and facilitator in the field of games and playful technology. He has been the driving figure on innovative, international projects for organisations including LEGO, Tate, Science Museum, V&A, the BBC and the Natural History Museum of Utah. He has written for the Guardian and spoken at conferences around the world on the power of play to build deep connections with diverse audiences. It also considers how future activities will need to be planned differently in the light of the pandemic.

'So where on earth do we go from here?’ Cultural heritage tourism in the climate emergency and Covid19 pandemic - Manda Brookman (Director, CoaST, the One Planet Tourism Network)

Manda Brookman offers a sobering assessment of the challenges ahead but argues that, while glib optimism is misplaced, there remain good grounds for hope. To be resilient and sustainable tourist destinations must adapt to the consequences of the climate emergency and the pandemic including visitor unpredictability and fewer resources. Museums and heritage sites will have to adopt new business models and as community spaces and learning places be more proactive in engaging people about climate change. Initiatives such as the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site’s new management plan show how our sector’s passion, commitment and imagination will continue to enable us to make a difference.

Manda Brookmanhas been working in Cornwall for the last 19 years in the field of change, resilience and creative disruption. Before moving to Cornwall she worked in a range of third sector organisations on local, national and international programmes around waste, homelessness and sustainable development-specific networking and communications. Manda is the co-founder of CoaST, the One Planet Tourism Network, which now has over 3,000 members across 50 countries.


Each day there will be practical workshop sessions to choose from. You can read about these exciting sessions below.


Using Natural Science Collections to Challenge the Climate Emergency - Helena Jaeschke (Conservation Development Officer, South West Museum Development Programme) Roz Bonnet (Programme and Projects Officer, SWMD), Isla Gladstone (Senior Curator (Natural Sciences), Bristol Museum & Art Gallery), Jan Freedman (Curator, The Box Plymouth, Museum Gallery Archive), Ray Barnett (Head of Collections & Archives, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery) & Claudia Hildebrandt (Technical Specialist, Bristol University School of Earth Sciences)

This workshop will provide practical examples of ways museums can use their natural science collections to demonstrate, explain and combat the climate emergency enabling delegates to plan effectively how to use their own natural science collections to engage audiences on this important topic. It will also help them begin to assess the significance of their collection for research on climate change and provide them with helpful resources.

The workshop will include:

  • ideas for engaging audiences with key topics using existing displays
  • creating new displays simply and safely
  • examples of stories of climate change related to biological and geological specimens
  • decolonising natural science collections / links to climate justice
  • understanding how your collection can connect to global natural science collections
  • discovering your collection’s unique significance
  • how important your collections are to ongoing research
  • how to discover if your specimen has vital data attached to it for biodiversity and climate research
  • organisations to contact to find out more
  • helpful resources

How can your organisation support children and young people to understand and respond to the climate and ecological emergency? - Alison Bowyer (Executive Director, Kids in Museums)

In 2017 a global survey of 30,000 young people identified the climate emergency as the issue that most concerned them in the world today. This has continued to be the case during the pandemic with digital climate strikes, socially distanced protests and new programmes of digital activism delivered from home. As public space becomes increasingly polarised, museums have a trusted position which they can use as they reopen after lockdown to support their communities to recover, rebuild and understand the ‘new normal’. It’s important that the climate and ecological emergency is part of these conversations which can reengage young people with museums and help them address their anxieties about the future. Our workshop will enable organisations to think about their current position on the climate emergency and how/if this has changed as result of the impact of the pandemic. We will explore different approaches to consulting children and young people, how they can challenge an organisation and different aspects of potential work with them on this topic, including low cost options.

Alison has worked in the cultural sector for over 15 years at some of the UK’s leading organisations including Southbank Centre and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. She is passionate about museums and heritage, having taken degrees in history and Cultural Memory at the University of Cambridge and the University of London. Since becoming Executive Director of Kids in Museums in 2016, she has transformed the organisations supporting the introduction of new programmes and a revised business model. Alison has been a mentor for Arts Emergency and the Institute of Fundraising and has contributed as a speaker to national and international museum conferences.

A Greener Museum, Janine King, (Development Officer, The Heritage Centre, Bude) & Amy Shakespeare, (wAVE Immersive Experiences Project Manager, Cornwall Museum Partnership)

This participative workshop introduces the concept of a green museum manifesto and invites delegates to commit to concrete actions. After examining the rise of plastics and in particular its impact on Cornwall, there will be a short presentation about the environmental work being carried out at The Castle, Bude, and how it fits in with the wider community. After being introduced to the concept of a green manifesto, delegates will be invited to share what they are doing already, begin to develop a mini manifesto and make one pledge, which they can take away and action in their own museum. The workshop concludes with a short film about the work of Newquay Heritage Archive and museum.

Amy is the wAVE Project Manager at Cornwall Museums Partnership. She previously worked for the National Trust in visitor experience across West Cornwall, before joining CMP in 2018. Amy is a trustee for Kids in Museums, Young Trustees Movement Champion, and was a Clore Emerging Leader in 2019.

Janine is the Heritage Development Officer for Bude – Stratton Town Council. She is responsible for the day to day running of The Castle Heritage Centre, planning exhibitions and managing a team of volunteers. Janine previously worked as a Primary teacher and has a keen interest in the role of education in museums.


How to Climate Curate Your Museum - Lucy Carruthers (Co-Director & Exibition Designer, Climate Museum UK) & Bridget McKenzie (Co-Curator, Climate Museum UK)

This creative workshop encourages participants to explore ways to interpret, curate and combat the climate emergency. Discussions about the emergency will be triggered by a mini-museum of handling objects. We will develop approaches for contemporary collecting in response to the emergency, considering different audiences’ emotions, attitudes and coping strategies. Participants will explore how these interventions could be implemented into their own museums or heritage sites. Learn tactics to communicate the climate emergency in surprising and accessible ways. Consider the needs of different audiences and the challenges they face e.g. increased risk of flooding and how to mitigate, adapt and prepare physically and emotionally. We will also consider how the Covid-19 pandemic has arisen as a consequence of the Earth crisis, and the possibilities it poses for systemic change and a greater focus on wellbeing.

Lucy Carruthers is an experiential designer and consultant for museums, exhibitions and visitor attractions. She is currently working at MET Studio with previous experience as a Senior Designer at Event on projects including M Shed, The Roman Baths, Museum of Somerset and St. Fagans National Museum of History. In parallel Lucy continues to pursue her aspirations for social, sustainable and inclusive design as Co-director of the Climate Museum UK and as an artist. Lucy’s creative practise involves curating alternative narratives through Floodproof and exploring techniques to communicate impacts of the climate and ecological emergency. 

Bridget McKenzie is a researcher and creative curator in culture, learning and environment. She has been director of Flow Associates since 2006, after 14 years in roles such as Education Officer for Tate and Head of Learning at the British Library. She is an advisor for Culture Unstained and co-founder of Culture Declares Emergency. She presents and publishes internationally on possibilities of Regenerative Culture. She is founding director of Climate Museum UK, a new CIC which stirs and collects the emerging response to the Earth crisis.

Partnerships for Sustainability: a case study of how partnership projects and public engagement can bring new voices to the discussion on local conservation and climate change - Gemma Martin (Education Officer, Wheal Martyn Clay) & Suzie West (SpinDrift Dance Collaborative)

This workshop will explore how a partnership project in Cornwall between Wheal Martyn, a China clay mining museum, and SpinDrift Dance bought about a successful community festival. The project engaged the community through various art forms to find and express their voices; to discover what they find fascinating about the place that they are from; and what they want to conserve for the future. The activities and learning built public awareness, engagement, and activity and promoted a sustainable future for the Heritage and Arts partners involved.

Join in with short creative tasks and trial case studies to explore the project. Devise a co-creation format ready to migrate to your community groups. We will also consider the implications of the Covid 19 pandemic for future engagement activities.

Gemma started at Wheal Martyn in 2011 as the Education Officer. Previously, Gemma worked in schools as a secondary science teacher, as well as leading expeditions in the UK and overseas. Gemma now delivers the learning programme at Wheal Martyn, forging relationships with local schools and groups, developing workshops, and delivering education and partnership projects.

Suzie is a dedicated researcher and ‘meddler’ in the placement of dance in education. Local to the South West she has a vested interest in local stories, beauty spots and people when making work. She specialises in site specific performance, large community performance and creative partnerships projects ‘meddling’ in the placement of Dance in education and the fortifying of dance ecologies. As the Artistic Director of SpinDrift Dance Collective, projects have evolved from research and integration of partnership pedagogy with schools, universities and community groups. Her MA in Creative Education follows community practice methodology, partnership pedagogy and the role of social creativity in community cohesion. Currently she is lead practitioner for Fuse Diverse Dance at Barbican Theatre. Her new role as Cultural Compact Coordinator will develop strategic partnership plans for Truro.

Seeding change by the power of enchantment - using stories to engage museum audiences with climate change - Xanthe Gresham Knight (Freelance storyteller and writer - one of the core storytellers for The British Museum and The Smithsonian Insitute, and published by Thames and Hudson, Barefoot Books and The History Press)

Stories seed change via the power of enchantment.

The ancient deities were forces of nature. Telling their stories re-connects us with reverence and re-kindles awe. Using story to interpret sacred artefacts, inspires us to nurture the life that sustain us and reminds us how insignificant we are in the eyes of the universe and time.
Folktales can unlock local landscapes and help us face the passing of species.

We’ll work with:

  • The epic of Gilgamesh, the myth of Isis and local folktales
  • Storytelling techniques
  • Unpicking environmental themes from stories
  • Letting artefacts inhabit a story
  • Letting artefacts inspire your own practice

Xanthe's story of Cassandra inspired by Greta Thunberg for Radio 4 is available on BBC Sounds.

Xanthe was Storyteller in Residence for the Chelsea Physic Garden, Harvard University, Stoke and Staffordshire Libraries, Psychologies Magazine and Hastings 18 Hours and was a Lecturer for the University of East London for 15 years.

As a core storyteller for the British Museum Xanthe works with a multitude of myths interpreting collections. For the last 12 years she has visited the Smithsonian Institute with Shahnameh the Iranian Epic of the Kings. As an international performance storyteller, she has worked extensively with the divine feminine.

‘Goddesses and Heroines’ with Thames and Hudson was published in July and Xanthe has works published by Barefoot Books and The History Press.