Experience design consultancy MET Studio has designed the Climate Control exhibition due to be opened by activist and designer Dame Vivienne Westwood at the Manchester Museum on 10th May. On 22nd April, countries around the world committed to the Paris Agreement on limiting climate change to well within 2 degrees centigrade. Manchester is the home of the industrial revolution, which has contributed significantly towards changing the climate of the planet. Early in 2016, the city committed to become zero carbon by 2050. Manchester Museum, part of the University of Manchester, is working with Manchester Climate Change Agency and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research (also part of the University of Manchester) to imagine how that target can become a reality through the series of exhibitions called Climate Control, which aims to enable civic action and participation. Climate Control is a major contribution to Manchester’s time as European City of Science. The exhibition, designed by MET Studio, avoids negative stories of climate change, focusing on giving visitors opportunities to express what matters to them and what kind of world they would like to live in. The engaging narrative for the Climate Control exhibition was a result of close collaboration between the team at Manchester Museum and MET Studio, weaving together the story of the Peppered Moth, which evolved rapidly in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution and using the Moth as a metaphor for change to link the different exhibitions together.
MET Studio was inspired by the idea of balance, cause and effect, and how small individual actions can have a big collective impact. MET used these as their guiding principles to create a series of installations that suggest, "together we can change the future". On entering the Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, visitors are confronted by two pathways and must make a choice of which door to go through; “Explore the past” or “Explore the future". This small decision subconsciously shapes the course of their exhibition experience and how the climate change story is told. Along the central spine of the gallery is a participatory exhibit “Together, we all make a difference”, a 9m wall, one face black and one face white. Visitors are asked to mark these walls with stickers: black stickers on the white face signify our individual carbon footprints; white moths on a black background signify the positive effects of our choices. Designed to accumulate through the duration of the exhibition to depict collective actions, the stickers either blacken or whiten the walls. The “Arctic Witness” exhibit features a taxidermy polar bear, from the Museum's existing collection, on a black stage facing an empty chair. Tapping into the empathy of visitors, they are invited to sit in this chair facing the bear, and are compelled to look into its eyes to reflect on their connection with nature. Onto another part of the exhibition and the same landscape features a solitary chair, suggesting that humans could experience the same diminishing environment as the Polar bear. Within the Living Worlds Gallery, MET Studio has designed a series of posters that empower visitors with individual steps they can take to reduce their impact on the climate and to tell the Museum, and other people, whether they already do these, they might do them, or choose not to do them. This aims to provide an opportunity to promote collective action. Central to this gallery space hangs a large aerial 3m sculptural globe of Peppered Moths, representing a symbol of adaptation to a changing environment in Manchester. This sculpture, designed by MET Studio, was built by local craftsmen in Manchester.
MET was appointed by Manchester Museum in late 2015, following an open tender. The London-based consultancy designed the overall visitor experience, central exhibits, graphics, illustrations and sculpture for the Climate Control exhibition.
Henry McGhie, who led the development of the Climate Control programme, said ‘We always aim to create impactful and memorable experiences. Through close collaboration with MET we have produced exhibitions that take visitors far beyond the role of spectators, but enable them to take part, sharing their ideas and telling us, and one another, what matters to them. By giving visitors a voice in the exhibitions, we believe that we have created a space that promotes civic participation around an issue of local and global concern.’