One recent morning on the Upper East Side, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Their nannies chatted in many languages—Spanish, Urdu, English. “This is my first time coming here,” one woman said. “Art class,” she added, nodding at her charge. At ten o’clock, just as the museum’s doors were opening, a lawyer named Miranda Massie arrived. The Cooper Hewitt is the seventh Manhattan museum that she has visited this year. She’s looking for ideas for her own museum—a museum devoted to climate change. Massie is thinking big, and thinking long-term, as in centuries. The occupants of the strollers that she followed through the old Carnegie Mansion’s doors are her target audience, starting in a few years, and if they’re lucky they’ll still be visiting her museum in 2100, when the sea level around New York will likely be four feet higher than it is today.
Massie conceived of the project in 2012, a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy. “It was a question of, What’s missing?” she said. There were climate-policy organizations and academic centers, like Columbia University’s Earth Institute, but nothing that she knew of for the broader public. “If we have a museum for skyscrapers, mathematics, Himalayan art, food and drink, the First Amendment, then we absolutely should have a museum of climate in the United States,” she said. Massie Googled “climate museum,” assuming that such an institution already existed or was in the works. Not in this country. There is a small one in Hong Kong—the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change—which Massie is visiting next week. And there’s the Klimahaus, in Bremerhaven, Germany—“Be amazed, sweat, and freeze”—which features a climatic tour down the eighth meridian. (“I don’t understand a climate museum that neglects climate change, or fails to foreground it,” Massie said. “It’s the preëminent science, development, tech, health, finance, and social question for our species.”)
- The Climate Museum January 20, 2016
- Progress for a Museum on Climate Change January 20, 2016
- A Lawyer Quit Her Job to Start a Climate Museum in New York January 20, 2016