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Climate Change, Communities, & Collections

What do protest signs, mushrooms, and feathered headdresses have in common? They’re all objects featured in the Global Museum’s latest virtual exhibition, Climate Stories, which highlights the lives of Indigenous peoples on the frontlines of climate change. Wait, did you even know that San Francisco State University had a museum? Buckle up and get ready to learn about the best exhibit to hit the web since the pandemic began!

Students and faculty celebrate the Global Museum’s first anniversary at the gallery entrance. You can find the gallery in the Fine Arts Building on the San Francisco State University campus. (Photo taken in 2019, prior to COVID-19.)

The Global Museum stewards thousands of objects from around the world, ranging from ancient Egyptian ushabti to contemporary Papua New Guinean necklaces. The museum’s mission is to be a responsible steward of the world’s cultural heritage and to foster collaboration with diverse communities. The gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building, features rotating exhibitions as well as permanent displays; these include a triple-nesting sarcophagus, one of only three in the United States. The Global Museum also serves as a teaching lab for the Museum Studies Master of Arts program, where students obtain hands-on experience in every aspect of museum work and collections care.

Students in the Museum Studies program carefully install the sarcophagus of Nes-Per-N-Nub near the museum’s entrance; his mummified remains are located in an adjacent gallery. (Photo taken prior to COVID-19.)

Climate Stories opened on campus in the fall of 2019, and has since been adapted to a virtual exhibition using images of the objects and text from signage in the exhibit. The exhibit centers on the disproportionate impacts that climate change has on Indigenous communities and is organized into four themes: connections to the ocean, relationships with wildlife, the power of plants, and adapting tradition. Climate Stories uses objects from the Global Museum’s collection, as well as loans from the Harry D. Thiers Herbarium (also on the SF State campus) and the California Academy of Sciences, to tell the stories of Indigenous nations worldwide. But of course climate change doesn’t just affect native peoples; the exhibit also touches on the rise in infectious disease rates worldwide as water levels and temperatures change, the increased prevalence of wildfires, and local sustainability movements and protests (all of which are especially relevant topics these days).

A feather crown from the Karajá (Iny) community in northeastern Brazil. Over 400 indigenous groups live in the Amazon Basin and are on the frontlines of climate change and conservation, fighting to protect their homes from wildfires, deforestation, and development.

Is your interest piqued? Check out Climate Stories online here, where you can download a PDF of the entire exhibition. And if you’d like to see more images of objects in the Global Museum collection, take a peek at their database on DIVA, the University’s digital collections archive, here. Tired of looking at a screen, or looking for a more accessible way to connect to the Global Museum? The Global Museum partnered with the Longmore Institute to create an audio description guide of Climate Stories; access the guide with or without music at this link. And lastly, if you’re an educator, have a child, or just looking for more ways to pass the time and keep your brain engaged, keep an eye on the Global Museum website for lessons, crafts, and activities related to Climate Stories coming soon!


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