Continuing the work of the NHM Assets x Public Value Working Group, this subgroup will provide additional comment to a working draft of a position statement and continue to discuss the long term, high level vision about the public value of natural history museums.

February 15, 2012

Statement on the assets, public value, and potential of Natural History Institutions

“The Declaration of Interdependence”

The natural history institutions of the world affirm that:

Humanity is embedded within nature and we are at a critical moment in the continuity of time.
Our collections are the direct scientific evidence for evolution and the ecological interdependence of all living things.
The human species is actively altering the Earth’s natural processes and reducing its biodiversity.
As the sentient cause of these impacts, we have the urgent responsibility to give voice to the Earth’s immense story and to secure a sustainable future.


We are places, people, collections, and facilities that connect the natural world and humanity in the past present and future. We are trusted and we are in the public trust.

DISCOVERY-We make discoveries and create knowledge
We create new knowledge, collect, study
We are a collection of experts
Our collections continue to be global resources of knowledge.

PRESERVATION-We are the keepers of the record
We are the places where our culture houses its treasures
We are a bank for information for the future
We are the archives of a changing world

AUDIENCE-We are learning institutions
We disseminate, inspire, and inform
We tell the whole story
We connect art, science, nature, place and culture
We are a resource for people to take action
We are a meeting ground for science and culture
We are where children learn about the diversity of the natural world
We are places for public deliberation.

We are owned by our public
We are trusted

We recognize these tenets and our assets as the basis for a framework of collaboration and action:

We will be places where the complex challenges of the future are met in an open, honest, inclusive, and rational way.
We will be welcoming to all people, not just our traditional constituents.
We will actively engage our assets, science, and stakeholders with local and global nature.
We will be the storytellers of humanity’s origins; the interface between humans and nature.
We will reinvent ourselves to become trailheads for lifelong journeys of nature and science exploration.
We will be agents of social change and embed people in nature by giving them new eyes with which to see the world and to understand their responsibility.
We will work together.
We will catalyze a sustainable future for the planet.
We will do this before the end of the century.

Stakeholders to Work with When Revising and Vetting the Statement

1) Colleagues
2) Institution leaders
3) Our "professional neighbors"
4) Our publics and communities
5) Funders and policymakers

Initial notes from small group discussions about the Value Statement (shared Wednesday 2/15 am)

Where are the visitors in this statement
Doesn’t talk about what we’re doing poorly
Where’s the part about us learning from other institutions
What are collections for, which are valuable, which are not
On whose terms – on the terms of the natural history museums
On whose terms does the museum operate – seems to operate on the terms of science – broader expertise beyond curators
Should be representing the expertise of educators, curators, learning researchers
We will do this by next Friday
What we need to be is dynamic, agile, more resilient, who can adapt to the changing field
This s saying that NHMs believe the world is a mess and we can change that and save the world. But it won’t necessarily be the most fundable statement
Important to have a public value message – difficulty with the wording – humanity embedded in nature – needs to say instead humanity is part of nature not embedded.
We can’t tell the whole story about our impacts so try and tell and unfolding sotry going forward of which we are part.
Subtlety versus direct call for action – are we taking a stand – if so are we comfortable with all of these statements as a group and is the rest of the field comfortable with this
We keep talking about trust – that’s not entirely true but not for all of the public – how do we get that trust if we go down this field
What is the intended audience for this document – subtlety versus direct statements
Needs a definition of what natural history museums are
The word facilitator is nowhere in this document
Science does not tell us what to do – science tells us how the world works
Ways that we might respectfully engage our diverse communities and celebrate our unique assets, Line 14, Line 22: We construct evidence based knowledge about preservation – [get other line edits] Line 43, we are trusted for good reasons, we have guided principles – willingness…Line 53 We provide opportunities you explore humanities origins
Need this call to action as a broad statement to the field. How are we going to do this – create a new document, hold new conference to discuss this
What is our working definition of natural history museums
No mention of 21st century audiences
Can we arrive at one common sense of purpose?
Is there a role for indicators and impact in this document? Do we want to be that concrete?
Language makes a difference – do we want to be clear and intentional about focusing on STEM literacy. Should we align ourselves with STEM literacy?