Picture 1. A Knowing Theater performance（photo credit: National Human Rights Museum）
Facing the issue of climate change, what specific steps can museums take as the bridge connecting audiences to social issues? Echoing the theme of ICOM Prague 2022, the Power of Museums, the Federation of International Human Rights Museums-Asia Pacific (FIHRM-AP) continued the co-learning model of the Migration and Human Rights Workshop in 2020 and launched a series of co-learning sessions featuring the theme "Climate Change and Human Rights Issues". Over a period of five months, participants from 12 NGOs and 9 national museums invited by FIHRM-AP carried on their discussions through arrangements like monthly gatherings, field trips and workshops. Together, they formulated action plans in response to climate and human rights issues.
FIHRM-AP re-examined the similarities and differences between NGOs and museums
Aiming to facilitate the exchange on climate change and human rights issues, both parties of this program put their heads together to further advocate for the cause and explore action plans. At the first session of this co-learning program, Chen, Shi-ting, a researcher from the Green Citizens Action Alliance shed light on climate issues and demonstrated the advocacy and action advantages of civic groups in areas such as promoting policies, organizing press conferences and delivering training for teachers. On the museum side, Huang, Hsu-tsea, an associate researcher from the National Museum of Natural Science shared the case of curatorial strategy of "When the South Wind Blows--the Documentary Photography of Taixi Village", an exhibition featuring climate issues. By illustrating the museum's approach to the execution, discussion and research on the topic of climate issues, the full picture of the thinking behind the exhibition was provided as an example for reference. The format of a workshop provided the group with opportunities for discussion, allowing both parties to talk about and share the differences between museums and NGOs and the picture they have in mind. The conversation further encouraged the consideration of possible collaboration on joint actions for the same cause.
Playback Theater brought out different styles of communication and perspectives
Furthermore, are there any other methods of communication available for climate change issues besides NGOs' advocacy initiatives and museums' exhibitions? FIHRM-AP invited the Knowing Theater troupe to lead the discussion through improvised enactment on the spot. The power of theater enacting opened up room for more diverse ideas and interactions. Participants were first asked to share the aspects of climate issues which concerned them and with re-enactment as intervention, they reconsidered the day-to-day relationships between climate and people. The performance was presented to the viewers as a way of returning their input. Lastly, the theater leader Kao, Yu-chen and drama lecturer Chen, Cheng-yi shared cases of lesson plans for communities and schools. The format of "performance" offered new perspectives and room for discussion to museums and NGOs to help them communicate with visitors or those who engage with the issues.
Picture 2 Discussion and brainstorming during workshops
Picture 3 Discussion and brainstorming during workshops
From ideas to actions: field trips leading up to the birth of actions plans
Under the theme of climate change, this co-learning program further arranged field trips for participants besides lectures and discussion workshops. The sites surrounding the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot included: National Science and Technology Museum, the Rinari Kucapungane indigenous community, Makazayazaya Township, Pingtung County, Xiaolin Pingpu Cultural Museum, Wulipu Xiaolin Community Museum, and the Xiaolin Village Memorial Center. The differences of exhibition texts and narrative models between national and community-based museums prompted an inquiry into the power relationship between museums and communities. This examination, as the basis of climate action initiatives, expanded the room for discussion about climate and human rights issues. During the co-learning program, museum and NGO practitioners talked about practices such as field trips in workshop sessions which led to an understanding of the differences and similarities of execution between museums and NGOs. They went further to exchange their experiences and challenges in practice before moving on to executable activities featuring climate change through a wide variety of initiatives such as topical field trips, touring exhibition about permanent housing, and counselor training camps.
A field trip
FIHRM-AP continued the co-learning model for civic groups and museums it once developed. Through the program, museums went beyond its traditional role as an intermediary educational space and became a space for advocacy in today's society through the cross-field collaboration with NGOs and their activism. With FIHRM-AP as a platform for connection and collaboration, this program fully demonstrated the theme of this year's ICOM, the Power of Museums, in the process of responding to and promoting climate and human rights issues. We look forward to more possibilities for concrete actions which would come to fruition by museum-NGO synergy through FIHRM-AP!
Participating NGOs: Homemakers Union Foundation, Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition, Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Association of Taiwanese Indigenous Peoples Development, Green Citizens’ Action Alliance, Morakot Post-Disaster Research Team of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Society of Wilderness Chiayi Chapter, the Center for Austronesia Social and Cultural Development of National Sun Yat-sen University, Amnesty International Taiwan, Morakot Post-Disaster Indigenous Human Rights Coalition, and Environmental Rights Foundation.
Participating Museums: National Science and Technology Museum, National Taitung Living Art Center, National Museum of Prehistory, National Taiwan Science Education Center, National Taiwan Museum, National Museum of Taiwan History, and National Human Rights Museum.