Put a Frame on It: Contextualizing Climate Change for Museum Visitors
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Public opinion polls continue to show that Americans are divided--particularly along political and ideological lines--on whether climate change is real and warrants immediate action. Those in the natural and social sciences have recognized that effective communication is key to closing the gap that exists between scientific and public understanding on this issue. A body of social science research on climate change communication has emerged within the last decade. This field has identified strategies for climate change communicators and educators, emphasizing the importance of framing climate change issues in ways that help it resonate with a wider range of public concerns and values in order to develop a shared belief regarding the necessity of action. Museum exhibits and programs on climate change that were developed within the last five years are likely to have benefitted from this body of work. This qualitative research seeks to examine and analyze the various ways museums in the United States are communicating about climate change related issues to the public. Three case studies of museum exhibits on climate change issues were examined. The scope and purpose of climate change communication in museums, the specific messages that museums are choosing to communicate, and how those messages are being framed for public audiences were explored through these case studies. The findings suggest that museums are considering their audience when framing messages about climate change and have used work from the climate change communication field to inform message development. In particular, museums are making climate change issues more relevant by emphasizing social, economic, and human health concerns, and are considering strategies to counteract fear-fatigue and empower visitors to take action.
- Museology