South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

In conversation: Claire Dixon chats about this year's conference 'Interpreting, Curating & Combatting the Climate Emergency'

This year, the South West Fed is focusing its conference 'Interpreting, Curating & Combatting the Climate Emergency' on how museums and heritage sites can contribute to increasing public awareness and civic engagement, and how we can develop sustainable and safe practices which will mitigate and adapt to the climate emergency, and to the coronavirus. Here, Laura Service chats to South West Fed Chair, Claire Dixon about the 2020 South West Fed Conference (info and tickets here):


Laura: The 2020 South West Fed online conference focuses on different ways the museums and heritage sector can respond to challenges posed by climate change and COVID-19. What are you most excited about from the line up?

Claire: The 2020 conference is taking place within a very different climate to the one anticipated when we constructed this theme and planned the event. COVID-19 has made the climate issue even more critical and it is challenging that, at a time when our sector needs to rise to this debate, support our communities and reflect the activity and concerns of our audiences, we are being decimated in terms of resource and activity.

Despite this challenge, we are proud to present a broad, rich and insightful programme that explores so many different aspects of how the climate crisis can be considered, represented and addressed by our sector. The line up of speakers demonstrates the significant levels of high-quality work that is being done regarding climate change, across so many different professional areas and creative mediums.

It is impressive that the South West Fed can bring this to professionals from across our region, which is renowned amongst those who live and work here, for facing huge access issues due to poor transport provision and limited technological infrastructure, especially in the many large rural areas. I am excited and proud that the great line up of speakers provides such a high value opportunity for sector professionals from across the region, to hear and learn from professionals they would not normally be able to engage with due to access and financial barriers.


Children in a museum looking at bicycles from throughout history


Laura: There are going to be a selection of workshops which delegates can join. Why are these workshops so important for our delegates and the conference programme as a whole?

Claire: The workshops provide a great opportunity for delegates to delve more deeply into subjects of particular interest and relevance to them. The sessions are more interactive and enable presenters to respond to individual issues and circumstances, revealing how their experience and learning can be applied to help others. It also enables those in the session to have conversations with each other, sharing more examples of good practice and allowing learning from within the wider group. Often it is the workshops that lead to follow up projects and delegates taking ideas and examples back to their own fields of work, to apply.

For delegates who may not have the confidence to put questions to main speakers, this also provides a more informal setting in which to explore issues, share problems, troubleshoot and provide ideas. The workshops also enable the programme to take a broader approach to the theme, connecting the overarching issue with specific areas of work within our diverse sector. It is also a great way to showcase work both within organisations but also across the freelance sector, providing connections with our members that can lead to the creation of new projects.

Laura: What difference can a two-day conference make to addressing the climate emergency and to the museum and heritage sector and how can we respond to this with limited capacity?

Claire: The climate emergency is a huge issue that cuts across all professional sectors and personal lives. It is being impacted further by Covid-19 and our sector has a responsibility to reflect the concerns and interests of the general public, as well as proactively involve itself in this debate and the solutions. This conference aims to provide an opportunity for professionals to step away from their workplaces and projects, to allow some head space for this significant issue. We don’t anticipate that during the two days, major issues will be resolved! We do however strive to provide meaningful learning, discussion and debate, to enable sector peers from across the region to embed the conference content in their workplaces, projects and wider work. We provide opportunities for people to make connections, build relationships and obtain new contacts, to support and enrich their longer-term work plans. It is often when understanding how colleagues have applied their resources to a particular issue, that you find your own ways to contribute and play a role in the solution. We are proud that the South West Fed can play a role in facilitating this change.


To find out more about the 2020 South West Fed Conference, and to buy tickets, click the following link: https://www.swfed.org.uk/about-us/meetings/2020-co...



A child at an outdoor exhibit of a tent made using branches and logs.