New York City Might Get a Climate Change Museum

The museum will be the first of its kind in the U.S.

New York City
New York City, site of the future Climate Museum Alan Turkus via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Climate change is an environmental issue. But it's civil rights issue, argues lawyer Miranda Massie. “If you don’t have the right to thrive as an organism, then everything else falls away,” she tells reporter Lisa W. Foderaro for The New York Times. “I came to see the environment as a civil rights issue.” The effects that Hurricane Sandy had on New York City helped spur her to this realization. And now, Massie is working hard to build the Climate Museum, a place where the public can gain a broader understanding of the effects of climate change.

The museum is still in the conception stage, but has just received some sketches of potential designs from the Rhode Island School of Design and Tisch School of the Arts, reports Clara Chaisson for On Earth. Many of the designs feature natural influences — the ocean, sculptures spun by the wind, vegetation crawling over the building’s facade — integrated into the urban environment. 

The New York Board of Regents chartered the museum on July 20, reports Clayton Aldern for Grist. That's a necessary step toward making the museum a reality. Massie’s plans are ambitious — she has a target audience of one million visitors per year. (In comparison, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History sees about 7.3 million each year.) “[C]limate has now reached the point — at the risk of a little bit of hyperbole — that it’s touching every aspect of the human experience, from health to how much we pay for groceries to household finance to insurance premiums to social justice, domestic and international,” Massie tells Aldern. 

It will take time to build the new building, but in the interim, the museum will start in a temporary space and potential pop-up exhibitions. 

The topic may seem like it could be depressing, but Massie also wants to focus the exhibits on potential solutions. Plus, stirring the public's emotions is part of the point, she says. “Museums are intended to provoke thoughts, feelings and conversations,” Edward W. Maibach, a membor of the museum's advisory board tells The Times. “A climate museum, if done well, can help start an important conversation about climate change in America.”

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