Facilitator: Kirsten Ellenbogen
Recorder: Nancy Staus

Context

Natural history museums have immense public value and, arguably, even greater potential for public value in the 21st Century. Museums across the globe have been engaging in a re-examination of their public value for the communities and societies they serve. The Institute of Museum and Library Services has noted that, among other measures, public value includes the significant roles that museums play in their "conservation and preservation efforts, research practices, contributions to youth and adult education, community participation, and economic impacts from the neighborhood to the nation" (Exhibiting Public Value: Government Funding for Museums in the United States, IMLS, 2008). The matter of public value is increasingly important for natural history museums, in particular, as the scientific research our collections and other assets support are ever more linked to understanding and addressing the scientific challenges of a global society.


TUESDAY NOTES

What about museums with radical agendas?
Action Items:
1. Decalaration
2. Barriers
3. American Naturalist article
4. New type of programs
5. An association of NHMs
6. Survey of Natural History
7. Convening to continue the conversation
We need to rise up and take our rightful place--we have an inferioirity complex. What is unique about NHM? Our issue is Sustainability--we can claim this as our domain (science centers have STEM, zoos have conservation). Nature literacy. Where do nature centers fit? Interface of humans and the planet (Anthropocene). Science literacy and sustainability are overused terms that are hard to define. Is there another term we can use?



Working Group Notes

Are public museums the only ones who have to worry about public value
Value in nature centers in a community in the service of its mission, to the users, and to the community at large (IMLS funding) – Bob Petty
Museums at risk – almost closed in 2007 – Doing a survey with visitors – what is the one thing you would not change in the museum? – Lori Mannel
We have to do something better than what we’re doing – Kirk
Most of us think of our institutions as being permanent – we are the logical people to help society think long term about ourselves - this is a unique asset we have – very few institutions have such a sense of permanence – Scott Wing
How do you make institutional change in places so steeped in tradition -
What I’m looking for is where can we make an impact – who better to define the relationship between human and non human but natural history museums – Scott
A long time perspective – Emlyn
Not inject emotion, but simply don’t suppress it – Nancy
Implied social contract
Move from interest to insight, interest to action,
Have the tools to make things happen
How does the museum field lead from successful change agendas in society
Learning research agenda – sounds last century – change to What is the organizational change agenda?
False way of assuming we know how people choose things, decide on things
Theory of planned behavior
What is the role of natural history museums in creating a sustainable planet or re-elevating science as a reliable way to come to knowledge in our culture
How do we halt the environmental change – we are not going to halt it don’t tell people what they should do – tell them where they are and where they’re headed – pulling them in to being part of the conscious earth –
Natural History Museums have never had a professional association. Scientists in museums always go to their disciplinary conferences
Changing behavior – look at the seafood watch program
We make this overly complicated – we just need to tap into what people care about
Our take away message gets lost. We’re not engaging peoples hearts. We have knowledge that the public doesn’t have – and we need to share that in a way that makes it relevant and engaging.
Integrate many different disciplines and ecosystems and time, so NHM are unique from zoos, nature centers, and aquaria.

How do we defend ourselves as learning institutions?
How do we prove to funders, etc. that museums are places of learning rather than simply tourism/entertainment? There is Federal pressure on finding a measure of learning that can be used among a variety of informal learning institution contexts. Learning is stereotypically defined as just cognitive change, but museums also change attitudes, behavior, practices (see full list from Learning Science in Informal Environments report).

What is our role in the community?
Should we frame our mission as an institution that encourages civic responsibility to differentiate ourselves from more formal learning environments?

Museums have been poor at being part of a community--they need to change how a community thinks about them? More than just an educational institution. Implied social contract--education is one facet. We need to communicate our identity more effectively.

We are making this overly complicated--look at how society changes as a whole and learn from that. NHM should educate public about how our earth is changing so issues are personally meaningful to visitors--then behavior will change. Focus on the bright spot, not the problem. Find who is doing this well and do what they are doing. (Heath brothers books). How does the museum field learn from past successful change agendas in society?

Learning and education are two different things--learning happens at the level of the individual whereas education is a larger topic. Are societal impacts the same as learning outcomes? Need to define our terms better.

Organizational change vs. learning research?
Organization change is the essence of the problem--how do you make that happen? Organizational change agenda rather than learning research agenda.

How do we change visitor behavior?
What motivates behavior change? Knowledge alone does not lead to behavior change. What is the role of emotion in learning/behavior change? Changes may happen over the long-time (Holocaust Museum example) that we don't see and can't measure in the short term.

What is the role of advocacy?
Museums call attention to environmental issues but do not advocate --or tell people what they should do. Give them the tools to make their own decisions. There is a tension between not telling people what to do but providing the information that visitors need to address relevant environmental issues. We need to empower people to change their behavior. (e.g. Seafood watch program). Must give them avenues for behavior change, knowledge is not enough (see behavior change literature).

NHM need a national declaration of intent. Museums need to tap into what people care about.

What is the takeaway message we want people to have after visiting? How do we engage peoples' emotions? How do we share our knowledge in a way that helps people care about the world. Give a voice to big ideas--everyone gets a clear message from all the NMH they visit. Must be culturally specific.

Unpack big questions--defining learning, advocacy. Make a new value for the public. Where is the public in this discussion? What can we do to facilitate change? Who is the public we are trying to influence?

Empower the public. Give them tools for behavior change as well as knowledge and caring.

List of resources about research on learning and behavior change. What tools are out there from other disciplines?

We need to work together--multidisciplinary issues. Need strategic partnerships with teachers, UN, etc. Need leadership to push ideas forward.

Need an infrastructure for NHM to facilitate above.

Need something big, something transformative that changes how NHM impact the future. We have an obligation to provide the public with a refuge from the consumerism of daily life.

Need to worry about integrity of NHM and how advocacy will affect it.



MONDAY MORNING SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION SO FAR

Calls to action
- What is the equivalent of the seafood watch card for saving the earth?
- We have to do something better than what we’re doing
- Where can we genuinely make an impact?
- Should we create a framework for organizational change instead of a learning research framework?

New Assets and Opportunities that Came Up
  • Sense of permanence - we are the logical people to help society think long term about our world
  • Serving our mission, our visitors, and our larger community
  • Taking a long time perspective
  • Re-elevating science as a reliable way to come to knowledge in our culture
  • Engage people’s hearts
  • How do we empower, inspire, the public to change their behavior?
Last one is also our place of most disagreement – we don’t quite want to tell people what to do – need to respect the visitor voice and needs in all of this – left us going back and forth on questions like is this about saving the world? Changing people’s behaviors? Engaging the public in what we know and the consequences of our behaviors? Public value versus making a new value for the public? Empowering the public? Inspiring the public to give a damn about the planet?
How this will be used – to better support collaboration, create a metanarrative of all natural history collections

Where We’re Headed
Statement or declaration on how natural history museums can [empower the public – not quite in agreement about this.]
We also want …..List of resources that help us know what we need to know about how to change public behavior - what tools are out there – what research findings. And a professional association for natural history museums – make sure it provides also for our visitors such as reciprocal admission.


Notes for the Statement on the Public Value of Natural History Museums

We need to ask the right question in order to solve it. NHM declaration should state what we need to be, not what we are. We are not fulfilling our purpose--need to make a statement of what our purpose is and how to get there. How will we use this declaration? We need a SWOT analysis to help inform our direction. We need to create coherence--the declaration will help with that. Statement could catalyze the coalition of NHMs. Canada created a national alliance for their museums--we should do something similar.

Public value: the planet and all its inhabitants, sustainability value
Most staff in our museums can’t define natural history
Unique value propositions – “need to be the best at what we do because it is of value to a specific need.”
Collins: Your passions, what you are best in the world at, resource allotment
Public value is value for the planet too.
Go big or go home.
We are articulating the ends, the other groups are articulating the means. A cascading series of questions.

Agree on a few short statements as well as a longer declaration. Must embed visitors in nature. We need to be the best at what we do because it is of value for a specific need. The Earth Charter may be a good place to start. Has been adopted by Universities and other institutions worldwide (earthcharterinaction.org). Need perspective between past, present, and future within declaration. Articulate commonly held beliefs: interdependence of all living things, continuity of time, evolution, etc. We are a part of nature, not apart from nature. Draft, growing discussion of common values of NHMs. Include museums of nature and science and other types of institutions who have similar purposes.

Will there be action points for each institution? - no

We want pithy not rambling – what are the few short statements that everyone can agree on. What are the big ideas
Other declarations – focused on the state of perfection but did not recognize where the field is at. Articulate what we are and what we need to be. Also how are we going to use this.
Look at the Canadian Natural History Museums
People will all life and act accordingly. – Burke museum
Use of the words faith, belief

Who will use this – bring this later to zoo, arboretum, nature centers – can we get all these on the same page?
How will it be used – - this is not a universal statement with full institutional support – position the document – the is a draft declaration - catalyze a coalition/professional association,

For preamble – pull from the proposal introduction – catalyze a national discussion
Define public value – it’s value for the planet too,
What are the big ideas we agree on – our core values – we hold these to be true
– we not apart from nature, we’re a part of nature.
– Evolution statement
– We synthesize many different fields
Articulate what we are – our changing name(s) (unpack natural history),
Articulate what we need to be


MONDAY'S DRAFT TEXT FOR THE STATEMENT

Preamble

We, the natural history museums of the world, affirm:
We are at a critical moment in the continuity of time.
Our collections are the evidence of evolution and the ecological interdependence of all living things.
The human species has profoundly altered the Earth’s natural processes and resources.
As the sentient cause of these impacts, we have the essential responsibility to secure a sustainable future and give voice to the story of Earth and our place in it.
Our community of institutions is uniquely positioned to engage humanity in this pressing journey.
  • We need to work collaboratively to raise these discussions to a higher level of purpose and visibility in our communities.
  • We recognize our commonly held tenets/principles from which a framework of collaboration can exist

Public Value
What is our value to the public? To what extent can these sites make a difference in people's lives?
  • Place for public discourse or deliberation to support understanding, especially related to issues that intersect science and society.
  • Catalyst for public engagement with science
  • Catalyst for engagement with nature; public positioned within nature (separate)
  • Supports a process of sense-making related to science and nature
  • Support understanding of how science works (the development of scientific knowledge)
  • Inspire action
How does the public value us?

We, the natural history museums of the world, affirm:
We are at a critical moment in the continuity of time.
Our collections are the evidence of organic evolution of the ecological interdependence of all living things.
Since the industrial revolution, the human species has profoundly altered the Earth’s natural processes and resources.
As the sentient cause of these impacts, we have the essential responsibility to secure a sustainable future.
Our community of institutions is uniquely positioned to engage the public in this pressing journey.

What We Are
We are the interface between the natural world and humanity in the past present and future.

We are places, Centers, Nodes

DISCOVER-Create Knowledge
Create new knowledge, collect, study
We are a collection of experts

PRESERVE-Preserve Knowledge
We are the places where our culture houses its treasures
We a bank for information for the future
Archives of a changing world

PRESENT-Share Knowledge
Disseminate, inspire, inform
Interface between academia and the world
We tell the whole story
We connect art science and culture
We are a resource for people to take action
We are a meeting ground for the sciences and culture
We are where children learn of the world
Resources for local landscapes
We are inspirational to generations
We are owned by our public
We create community and we are places where families enjoy each other and the natural world

What We Need to Become
  • We will have confidence in the power of our assets. People will make meaning from our assets
  • We will be the storytellers of humanity’s origins; the interface between humans and nature.
  • People come to us to understand their place in the world and their responsibility.
  • We will be agents of social change and embed people in nature by giving them new eyes with which to see the world.
  • We will reinvent ourselves to become trailheads for lifelong journeys of nature exploration.


Foundational Research and Best Practices Related to the Public Value of Natural History Museums

This section will grow during and after the conference. The tagging exercise at www.informalscience.org has identified research and evaluation reports relevant to learning in natural history settings that could be brought to bear as foundational research and best practices. The working group is encouraged to add their own knowledge of applicable research and evaluation, as well as best practices (projects, programs, museums, etc.) at the intersections of natural history assets and opportunities.





Ideas on vetting, gaining buy in, and dissemination


Publish a reflection on this in the American Naturalist. Could pair this with a more straightforward sketch in Natural History.
Connect to the various ally professional associations
Make sure we infuse ugency into this

Barriers
- Collections (is history enough)
- fear of controversy
- lack of leadership positioned to do this
- what's the business model


Creating a Professional Association


Look at Partners in Flight - operates around an MOU but is not a distinct non profit
Is this about convening regular meetings or about having a professional association
Can we connect into an existing professional association - the American Association of Museums has a new structure and the professional networks within AAM
Imagine a world in which there were no natural history museums. A world without dinosaurs....
We need to go beyond museums in doing this. What are the mechanisms for engaging the nation(s) in larger dialogues. The problem is that the issues are being drow out - we can play a role in positioning these conversations in the public.
Look to NSF to fund a series of convenings around this? Seed the professional association. Go to businesses instead to fund this? Look at Benefit Corp. Look at IBM "jams" Talk to the Craiglist Foundation.

Opportunities for Innovation


The Natural History Network
naturalhistorynetwork.org
The mission of the Natural History Network is to promote the value of natural history by discussing and disseminating ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large.
OUR PRIMARY GOALS ARE TO:
  • Articulate and promote the value of natural history
  • Promote the individual and collective practice of natural history
TOWARD THESE ENDS WE:
  • Encourage integration among the sciences, arts, humanities, and education
  • Advocate for support of natural history in all its forms, including discovery science, literary and visual arts, and field education
  • Building and supporting an inclusive, collaborative community of naturalists
  • Promote formal and informal natural history learning opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds, and settings

The Natural Histories Project: Listen to Conversations on the Rebirth of Natural History
histories.naturalhistorynetwork.org/

Convenings
We should be playing more of a role in convenings around controversial, important topics. Enter (and lead) these conversations before they become safe!




February 15, 2012
DRAFT

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.

WHAT WE ARE

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.

CREDIBILITY AND PUBLIC TRUST
We are owned by our public
We are trusted

WHAT WE NEED TO BE
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.



Small Group Discussion - Comments & Edits to the Value Statement (Wednesday am, 2/15)

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?





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